February 2009 Notebook


Friday, February 27, 2009

House Log

With Kelly gone, and my head cold still raging, I didn't feel like doing much of anything today. Did go out and do some shopping late afternoon, mostly for tools. Main thing I wanted was a router table. Spent some time talking to a salesman, and got a better understanding of what they are and why some are better than others, but didn't make up my mind. Best one I saw was a $500 Kreg with full-height legs (and extra cost casters; make that $560), mostly because it has a fence that can be kept square with the table. No other tables that I saw had that, including the $229 Kreg benchtop model. Evidently with the router spinning its cutter on a point it doesn't matter if the fence is square -- the board will follow the fence at whatever angle, making a consistent cut. (Of course, this gets more complicated if you try using a mitre guide.) I would at this point prefer a benchtop model just because I don't have a real shop and would have to schlep it around. But if I can't get the square fence on a benchtop, maybe I shouldn't pay the $200-plus for a Kreg, Bench Dog, Rockler, Bosch, or whatever, when there's a $99 Ryobi that looks to be about as good. Something to think about.

Meanwhile, I picked up a corded jig saw -- the battery-powered Ryobi has been tough to handle and appears to be a bit cockeyed. Also, a right-angle drill, another corded tool replacing a cheap Ryobi battery model. Also a kit for setting pocket screws, a few more clamps, a 1/4-inch socket kit with screwdriver attachments -- wish we had that when putting up the vent hood -- and more wiring stuff. Spent a shocking amount of money, especially given that we won't be able to use the tools for the work already done, which would have made a nice downpayment on them.

Hopefully will start feeling better soon, and get back into a work routine. Right now 2-3 days of painting would make a big difference. Might also start reorganizing: putting some of the tools away, and starting to bring back some of the kitchen stuff we moved out at the start of the project. The work pace is likely to slow down over the next few weeks, but we should be able to start living in the space again, which will make it less urgent. May even let me start to return to normalcy.

Blank Page

Joanna Ramondetta: The Blank Page gallery in Delano plans a festive evening Friday. Some sort of event here in Wichita tonight, hooked into "Final Friday," a once-monthly art gallery chaining event. Coincides with the first release of a publication, Blank Page, which my nephew Ram Lama Hull has been stealthily working on. Don't know much more. (I'm out of the proverbial loop on this one.) Newspaper actually printed one of Ram's drawings, but it didn't make the transition to cyberspace. Reportedly, the publication will be online, but I don't know where, and neither does Google.

PS: Online version of Blank Page magazine is here. Image printed in newspaper has been added above -- reportedly a sketch of the principals behind the magazine. (Ram Lama is second from right, not counting dog.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

House Log

This was Kelly's last day. He starts a regular job tomorrow. I thought he might come back weekends and some evenings to help out on some of the tasks I'm less skilled at, but he pocketed his check and the best he offered was to check in a couple of weeks if he has any spare time. So I'm left in something of a lurch, although not anywhere near as bad as when Matt went absent after Jerry was unable to continue. Still lots of things to do, but they're mostly small, mostly finishing touches. My bigger problem right now is that I can't shake this cold, which leaves me pretty unmotivated.

Got two things done today. First was to cut some plywood to cover the counter around the range. In the master scheme of things this will be covered with stainless steel sheet, but rather than wait for the whole thing to materialize I figured it would be best to use what we have to get something close. The 18-inches or so next to the wall will be built up in more cabinets, so I need the platform to build them on, and would like to get them together before closing up the ceiling pod. Thought I might actually get into that today, but didn't. That's basically because we wound up spending several hours putting the stainless steel wrapper on the vent hood column. Would have been fairly easy had the column been deeper, but with the ceiling pod we only had about 16 inches. Two sets of two pieces were designed to overlap, but they were 18 inches each, so first we tried cutting one set down to size. Then we found that there was no way to fit them, so we cut them smaller and cut the second set and then were able to slide them together. Took a couple of hours just doing that, and pretty soon the day was done. Didn't even get the plaster around the hole finished. Don't know when that will happen. Thus far Kelly's done all the plaster, and this looks to me like an awful tough place to start practicing.

Put a pot of water on the range, fired up the burner, and boiled some pasta for dinner, topping it with some pesto and parmesan. Not much, but the first food cooked on the new range. Ran the vent hood while I was cooking. Nothing I couldn't do before, but the range and vent worked very well. Something I haven't been able to do for the last three months, so we're pretty much functional now, even if there are lots of loose ends.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

House Log

Running a nasty cold. Not real debilitating, but plenty annoying. It's slowed me down, and basically left me uninterested in doing anything I don't have to, which includes keeping this house log up to date. Still, today was a major milestone day: got the vent hood hung from the ceiling, wired in, and powered up, then turned the gas on to the Capital range, which fired up like a charm. Aside from a lot of clutter and loose ends, that means the kitchen is basically functional. Good thing, too, because I only have one more day of Kelly's time before he starts his new job. Still have more hood work to do: put up the stainless steel trim, finish up the dropped ceiling box that it hangs from, plastering the corners and painting and all that. And still have much more to do, all over the rooms.

The vent hood installation was difficult for lots of reasons. The adjustable height frame turned out to be way too large, so we had to cut it apart and rivet it back together, to drop about 5 inches from a piece of plywood above the 2x2's that frame the ceiling drop box. That left us with very little room for tightening the screws that hold the unit to the frame; for that matter we were cramped for space to work on ducting and wiring. Holding the unit up and sliding it into position was tough work in itself: it has four screws that slip into keyholes, but you also have to get the ducting to line up. One of the screws was overtightened at the factory, so we had to disassemble the whole unit to unwedge the screw -- a process that went much more smoothly than trying to diagnose the problem. Also had to take the sheet metal from the wiring box off, which turns out to be pretty useless. On the other hand, extending the ductwork we had set up turned out to be pretty easy, as did reinforcing the platform that holds up the frame. When we turned it on, the outside baffle flapped open with a pretty healthy head of air.

We had to post sheet rock around the frame before we could mount the unit. I couldn't fit the full size sheet into my car, so split it into two pieces. We only put the first one up, so we still have a little access to the ceiling box, but not much. Need to mud the corners and edges and get that painted.

Removed two recessed lights from the ceiling box over the sink window, and filled that in smooth, leaving just the wire to hook into a new piece of track lighting. Tried to put it onto a dimmer, but the dimmer didn't work, so right now it's on a straight switch. Ceiling has been repainted, but track isn't up yet.

Got the pantry cove shelves built. The bottom shelf will hold a small microwave, which is a little deeper than the other shelf depths (16-inches vs. 14-inches), so we cut out a deeper shelf. Put a xenon light box under the bottom shelf, so the countertop there will get some light.

Still need to put primer on the pantry shelf unit, parts of the corner pantry unit, and some miscellaneous shelves and toe-kicks, and need to paint much more. A little touch-up around the sink window frame will make it possible to put up the shade there -- Laura has been obsessing about shades. We did get the shade up in the bathroom, which is functional except for not having a medicine cabinet -- meant to replace the whole basin cabinet/sink, but didn't get the countertop bought nor the cabinet built, which leaves us with the old crap intact, except that the old medicine cabinet went straight to the trash. Will probably buy something for now and reserve the basin for some future project. A new toilet seat would be nice too, since we'd be hard pressed to get the paint off the old one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Music Week

Music: Current count 15157 [15149] rated (+8), 769 [777] unrated (-8). Still under construction: Kelly is scheduled for only one more week, so we should be getting near completion, although it doesn't feel like that at the moment. No jazz prospecting. Some recycled goods.

  • Rich Man's War (2008, Ruf): Blues label second stringers go after the rogue right-wingers who drove the US into one endless, hapless, tragic and debilitating war after another, leaving our own freedom and democracy among the collateral damage; the bluesmen (and Candye Kane) aren't as starchy as folkies would be, but aren't as didactic either, favoring targets that are too easy or too trivial; some finds: Doug MacLeod's cynical "Dubb's Talkin' Politician Blues," Roy Zimmerman's squawking "Chickenhawk," and Eddy Clearwater's gospel benediction, "A Time for Peace." B+(***)
  • The Rough Guide to Colombian Street Party (2005-08 [2008], World Music Network): The label's first circumnavigation of the globe was just geographical, mixing whatever folk and pop hit the compilers' ears right, even for big, vibrant music scenes like Brazil and Colombia. Later passes focused stylistically, such as Cuban Son, Colombia Salsa, and Brazilian Hip-Hop. The latest uses vaguer concepts like Lounge and Street Party. DJ John Armstrong has good ears and can get a stylistic jumbo to flow as long as the beats run hot and heavy, which is no problem with so much to choose from. Colombian music ranges from calypso to hip-hop, with cumbia and salsa predominant. A-
  • Rokia Traoré: Tchamantché (2008 [2009], Nonesuch): Singer-songwriter from Mali, as cosmopolitan and traditionalist as a diplomat's daughter should be, with a whiff of feminism proud to break glass ceilings, but also delicate and subtle -- maybe too much to break the language barrier, but the booklet gives you a chance to break it yourself. B+(**)

No Jazz Prospecting

Not this week. Didn't bag enough records. (Not sure what my minimum is, but it's more than three, especially when Kind of Blue is one of those three.) Last week was wiped out with kitchen project work -- especially the four days it took to put the tile in. They did a beautiful job, but their early morning schedules and Rush Limbaugh fixation were toxic. Only thing I got out of the latter was the news that America is now some sort of socialist country. Glad to hear it, but I don't trust Limbaugh on that any more than on anything else. In particular, he seems to think that the stimulus package will only obscure the natural vitality of the private sector American economy. I too think it's likely to muddy the waters, but mostly by obscuring the moribund nature of that same private sector.

I expect one more heavy construction week, then things will lighten up. I'll still have little things to finish, but can work on them on my own time, while the kitchen itself will be fully functional. It's nearly there now. Putting up the vent hood and firing up the gas range are no more than a day away. Finishing the countertop around the range and building some pull-out cabinets off to the left will take a bit longer. One more relatively small piece of carpentry. Some wiring, and a fair amount of painting. Some simple laminate work. Clean up the old floors. That's about it. It's been an ordeal.

Friday, February 20, 2009

House Log

Way behind on writing this up, especially since we've made a good deal of progress. Big thing is that we now have the tile floor done. Took four days, and it's been an ordeal: contractor insisted on working early, which meant rising on average by 8:30. I don't sleep well when I have to get up early, so this week has been hell on me. Also didn't help that his helper/son insisted on listening to talk radio all day -- e.g., lots of Rush Limbaugh. I guess I'm pleased to hear that America is now a socialist nation, but the endless rants get on my nerves -- would probably get on my nerves even if he wasn't dead wrong nearly all of the time. On the other hand, they did a beautiful job on the floor. Took an extra day to even out a low spot in the bathroom. I picked up some vinyl tile with self-adhesive backing, so they put that under the refrigerator and range. I needed those boxes raised to the point where the appliances would be on the same level as the tile, so that worked without stressing the tile. The floor is the last big contract item -- we've decided to put the dropped ceiling back together again -- so we've finally turned the corner and are now working on just finishing things.

Put a little effort into installing the vent hood. Got stuck on a couple of issues: building some overhead support given that the joists are above hidden ceilings; also couldn't find the hardware package. Ordered replacement for latter, which may not be here until Monday, so we pretty much put it aside.

Did some work on the corner pantry cabinet. Put the swingout door unit together using biscuits to reinforce the joins. That worked out pretty nicely once we got the hang of it. Decided to make most of the main cabinet shelves adjustable, so had to drill out track holes. (Got a nice jig to do this.) Glued the main structure together, with one fixed shelf using biscuit joins. Ready for final assembly. Will likely still need to adjust the shelf lengths.

Also did some work on the meta-chimney shelf unit: drilled holes for adjustable shelves there, and set up the faceboard for the electrical boxes -- light switch, speaker volume knob, intercom master panel. Also broke out the south wall shelf units. Sanded them down, preparing to paint. Took a look at the HVAC stack and figured out how to route the air through the toe-kick area, including fabrication of one critical piece of ductwork. Came up with a design for the end panel. Painted wall behind and around unit. Also did a lot of touch-up paint, especially the wall light blue in the bathroom. Once we get the toilet mounted again, the bathroom should be "done" -- didn't get a new basin top or build a new cabinet, but those things may be calved off for future projects.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Freaky Economics

Haven't done much blogging lately, and not likely to do much for another couple of weeks, but today is exceptional in several respects. The kitchen/pantry is blocked off today while freshly laid tile sets up. The job that started so early this morning I was near comatose for much of the day, eventually deciding I needed a nap. So most of my waking moments have been spent in front of the computer (or in bed reading, or napping) -- anything but housework. Finished the short book I was reading -- Chris Hedges/Laila Al-Arian, Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraq Civilians. Played nothing but Franco and Les Amazones de Guinée -- let's bump the latter record, Wamato, up a notch to A. (My original grade came from a quick spin at Rhapsody. This makes 3 or 4 records I've upgraded after getting a copy -- not really surprising since real many records take a while to grow on you, but not an adjustment you can expect in general.)

One of today's diversions was to take a look at Time's ranking of 25 top blogs. I only frequent two of those listed (Talking Points Memo and Paul Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal), have occasionally seen two more (Huffington Post, Andrew Sullivan), and have heard of but not bothered with two others (Crooks and Liars, Freakonomics), so I thought I'd look around. One thing I noticed was at Freakonomics:

One effect of President Obama's $500,000 salary cap on the executives of bailed out firms (if it has any effect at all; Gary Becker thinks it won't) could be an exodus of human capital from the top echelons of the finance industry. [ . . . ] During the boom times [the 1920s up to the Great Depression, and from the 1980s to recently], wages in banking skyrocketed and talent flowed into the industry. During the bust cycles, that wage premium vanished [and "talented people left in droves"].

Uh, you call that talent? It does seem to be the case that singularly money-hungry people have opted for financial careers lately as opposed to other things they might have done, but the assumptions here seem to come from theory rather than reality: that money selects for talent, and that the talented are selected by money. The funny word here is "talent," which seems to suggest something more generally useful than mere skill at practicing fraud. If, say, you replaced "talent" with "greed" you'd get closer to the truth. But to get to the truth, you also need to rethink what they mean by "boom times": for most purposes the 1950s-1960s were America's real boom times, but not for finance, which at the time was regulated into a dutiful, uninteresting service industry. The two periods cited are more accurately characterized as "bubble times" -- periods where the financial system was lax enough to open up massive opportunities for conjuring up fraudulent gains. I recall back in the 1980s arguing that the only booming industry in America was fraud. After Clinton and the Bushes that's only more true.

There are other things you can unpack from this quote. For starters, you can question the talent level of CEOs making over $500K, especially those running bankrupt companies. The CEO position has evolved lately from that of a high-level manager to something else: an entrepreneur if you want to dress the role up a bit, or if you don't, a focal point for plunder. All companies are torn between competing internal interests: owners, management, workers. With the latter largely marginalized, the big struggle has been between management, which tends to favor a fat and stable bureaucracy, and ownership, which likes to extract as much profit as possible from the enterprise. For the stockholders to win this struggle, they have to have a dependable agent on top of the management hierarchy, and that is what has given CEOs such amazing leverage. A CEO who makes 20% more than his VPs is likely to think much like his senior management; a CEO who makes 5-10 times what his VPs make, mostly in stock options, is going to think and act like an owner. Talent has nothing to do with this. Anyone who cares to look can find lots of talent three levels deep in any corporate hierarchy, and any corporation has 5-10 people who could manage as effectively as the current CEO. That should pull CEO salaries down, but hasn't, for two reasons: the leverage point between management and ownership, and the company's plunder potential.

You might wonder why owners would steal from their own companies, but the arithmetic is pretty simple: in a bubble economy, any stable company is worth less as an ongoing operation than it would be if you sucked the value out of it and sold off the carcass. That's all the LBO craze of the 1980s was about, and variations on that scam have been tried again and again -- mostly putting companies further into debt while pocketing the loans as short-term profits. A couple of decades of this has left the entire financial industry with the sort of rotten balance sheets we see now.

I haven't read Freakonomics -- either the bestseller or the blog -- but this post reminds me of how so much economic thought is really no more than reflexive logic based on a set of axioms that at best refer to an imaginary idealized world. The law of supply and demand is a powerful concept for understanding many real situations, but it never actually works as frictionlessly as the theory or the math suggest. One obvious example is that finite supplies of natural resources can't respond infinitely to increases in demand. Another is that demand of almost everything is constrained between limits -- e.g., you can only eat so much, and you can never dispense completely with eating. Even where supply and demand reach equilibrium over time, there are drags as actors respond slowly and sometimes excessively. So, when a bubble economy creates opportunities for talented money-grubbers, the initial supply of the less talented will reap windfall profits. When the bubble collapses, expect another lag. Indeed, I figure the current banking "talent" will stay pretty much in place, even with less compensation. After all, what other industry is rising to compete with their talents for fraud?

Paul Krugman: Decade at Bernie's. Krugman almost has it right here: the Bush years as a whole mirror Bernie Madoff's ponzi schemes.

The net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001. [ . . . ]

Yet until very recently Americans believed they were getting richer, because they received statements saying that their houses and stock portfolios were appreciating in value faster than their debts were increasing. And if the belief of many Americans that they could count on capital gains forever sounds naïve, it's worth remembering just how many influential voices -- notably in right-leaning publications like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and National Review -- promoted that belief, and ridiculed those who worried about low savings and high levels of debt.

Then reality struck, and it turned out that the worriers had been right all along. The surge in asset values had been an illusion -- but the surge in debt had been all too real.

It's possible that a good part of the debt will prove to be illusory as well: invented from nothing but plunder, it is no longer backed by anything substantial, and therefore there is little reason not to stick the banks with the bill. Not even the government can make the bankers whole: not just because we should worry about the moral hazzard of compensating ponzi schemers, but because the only trick the government has up its sleeve is to make private debt public. It would be better in the long run to take the hit, leaving the rich a good deal poorer, while concentrating efforts to bolster the safety net, so the poor don't suffer so much for the sins of the rich.

Some of these ideas are coming around, as in the increased talk of nationalizing failed banks. Some are still far off the radar. To take one example, the stimulus bill is badly structured. The argument that it's full of pork is misguided: Keynes' original proposal for stimulating depressed demand was to hire people to dig holes and hire more people to fill them up again. Compared to that prescription, pork is downright healthy. We have a vast public infrastructure deficit, and anything done to put people to work building things that we need is positive. The problem is the tax cuts. Actually, what we should be doing is increasing taxes, especially on the rich who created this problem, while increasing spending even more. That way, when the economy gets going, the debt incurred in stimulating it can be paid back down with the increased tax revenue.

A smaller case of the latter is that we should take advantage of current circumstances to increase gasoline taxes. Specifically, we should institute a higher tax rate for winter gasoline blends, and a relatively lower one for more expensive summer blends. This would have the effect of reducing the winter/summer differential, as well as adding to the expected overall fuel cost to encourage conservation. And it would do so at a time when doing so would be relatively painless, unlike waiting until the middle of a summer price spike.

Ideas like this seem utterly obvious to me, but I rarely see anything like them -- even in the top-rated blogs.

Top Blogs

Time Magazine's list of 25 top blogs:

  1. Talking Points Memo
  2. The Huffington Post
  3. Lifehacker: Tips & Downloads for Getting Things Done
  4. Metafilter: Community Weblog. Short notices; additional sites for: Ask MeFi, Projects, Music, Jobs, MetaTalk.
  5. The Daily Dish: Andrew Sullivan
  6. Freakonomics: Stephen Dubner/Steven Levitt.
  7. BoingBoing: A Directory of Wonderful Things
  8. Got2BeGreen
  9. Zen Habits: Simple Productivity
  10. The Conscience of a Liberal: Paul Krugman
  11. Crooks and Liars
  12. Generación Y
  13. Mashable
  14. Slashfood
  15. Official Google Blog
  16. synthesis
  17. bleat
  18. Film
  19. Seth Godin's Blog
  20. Deadspin: Sports News without Access, Favor, or Discretion
  21. Dooce
  22. Confessions of a Pioneer Woman
  23. Said the Gramophone
  24. Detention Slip
  25. Bad Astronomy

Monday, February 16, 2009

Music Week

Music: Current count 15149 [15141] rated (+8), 777 [768] unrated (+9). Into the heavy lifting part of the kitchen remodel, leaving very little time for everything else. See the House Log for details on all that. I did order a half-dozen unheard Christgau picks from Tower last week, so they've been getting some heavy rotation, as well as a few jazz titles -- Houston Person was stuck in my player for two full days, and I'd be happy listening to nothing but it for quite a while longer. Countertop and tile floor are scheduled to get done this week, by pros so there's not much chance they won't. I also expect to get the vent hood up and to fire up the new gas range. Last week the kitchen really took shape with the new cabinets installed, the finished shelf units attached to the wall, and the stove and refrigerator boxes roughed in. This week it will turn functional, leaving us with just a lot of details to finish up.

Jazz Prospecting (CG #19, Part 7)

At four columns per year, the normal Jazz Prospecting cycle for a column runs 13 weeks, or parts as my title has it. We are, therefore, at least in theory at the half-way point on the next Jazz CG. It is a relief that the last one finally appeared in the Village Voice last week [Link]. I'm actually in good shape for the next one, with 43 albums and 1878 words written up -- maybe 30% more than will actually run -- including one pick hit and one dud (always the gating issues). Still, I won't be able to focus on wrapping it up until I my kitchen project starts to wind down. Had very little time to prospect last week, barely making my minimum standard to bother posting at all, but did get a lot of work done. This coming week will be equally heavy, but by the end I should have the kitchen functional: countertop arrives Monday, allowing us to hook up sink/faucet/disposer/dishwasher; tile floor scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday; vent hood is ready to install; range is ready to fire up as soon as the vent hood works; counter around range is framed and will be ready to cover once main countertop is in place; pantry boxes and shelving are cut out and ready to assemble; refrigerator space is assembled and ready to finish; same for the last dining room shelf units. There still will be a lot of finish work, not to mention things like cleaning spilled paint off the floor and windows. But we're well into the home stretch now.

Clifton Anderson: Decade (2007 [2009], Doxy/Emarcy): Trombonist, b. 1957 in NYC, studied at Manhattan School of Music, second album, the title reflecting the ten years since his first. Best known for playing in Sonny Rollins' band since 1983, which would seem like a strange pairing except that Rollins is Anderson's uncle. Lately Anderson has produced Rollins' releases on his Doxy label. Seems only fair that he should slip one in of his own. Not much more than a journeyman, but he gathers two solid groups here -- Larry Willis/Bob Cranshaw/Al Foster, Stephen Scott/Christian McBride/Steve Jordan -- with saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Eric Wyatt on two cuts each, and extra percussion for the obligatory Sonny-esque calypso. Tries to play clean and fast like JJ Johnson, but sticks to the meat of the horn, and get something extra on the ballads. B+(**)

Russell Gunn: Love Stories (2008, High Note): Trumpet player. Has been trying to feel his way toward some sort of popular breakthrough or encounter for more than a decade: one of the first to take up electronics, a dabbler in world beat -- one early album was called Ethnomusicology. Here he comes awful close to pop jazz, mixing in cheesy keyboards and electric bass, dropping in an obligatory vocal (Heidi Martin on "Love for Sale," but the opening chords sound like "Jim Dandy to the Rescue"). Results are mixed, with the slow stuff most cloying. I can't blame this on Kirk Whallum, who despite his own pop jazz resume can play monster soul sax anytime he feels the urge, and lifts the six cuts he guests on here. B

Cedar Walton: Seasoned Wood (2008, High Note): Pianist, age 74, has over 40 years of often superb recordings, but doesn't seem to get the top-tier ranking he deserves. Part of this may be that he often focuses on writing for horns, with some of his best work filed under Eastern Rebellion. Quintet here, although only the first and last cuts feature both horns: Jeremy Pelt on trumpet/flugelhorn, Vincent Herring on alto/tenor sax. Five of eight are Walton tunes, but I haven't checked to see how many have been around the track before. The others are "The Man I Love," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," and Jimmy Heath's "Longravity." Can't put my finger on why this works so well, but everyone involved plays above their norms: Herring especially, but also the pianist get to show off his craft, and the bassist -- haven't mentioned how great Peter Washington is, but I'd be remiss not to single him out here. A-

Don Braden: Gentle Storm (2008, High Note): Tenor saxophonist, started out in the early 1990s and has built up a solid, increasingly mainstream catalog, with a lustrous tone and rich dynamics. This one so much so that I wonder if he isn't fated to follow Houston Person in a line that stretches back through Stanley Turrentine to Ben Webster. Three originals don't do much one way or another, but the odd mix of covers give you pause: "Never Can Say Goodybe"? "Willow Weep for Me"? The former is catchy but saccharine; the latter is magnificent for all of 7:55. Mostly quartet, with pianist George Colligan a plus. "My Foolish Heart" is done as an alto flute-bass duet, a brief vegan course in a repast of juicy meat and lots of gravy. B+(*)

Houston Person: The Art and Soul of Houston Person (1996-2008 [2008], High Note, 3CD): Front cover runs on: "Songs of the Great Composers: Porter, Kern, Ellington, Rodgers and Others" and "Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder." Person has followed Joe Fields from his 1966 Prestige debut through Muse Records in 1976 and on to High Note in 1996. He's hardly worked for anyone else, amassing 50-plus records over 42 years and counting, plus doing double duty as a producer and accompanist on Fields' other projects. He is a steady, unexciting worker, with old tastes, gentle swing, a deeply felt touch for ballads, and the quintessential tenor sax sound. The only problem with his records is that he's so consistent in his range that he has problems differentiating himself. But he doesn't need to here: just one great song after another, summing him up in a songbook as definitive as Ella Fitzgerald's. No weak spots, no flow problems. I loaded up all three CDs and haven't been tempted to change them for 48 hours. I'm reminded of Geoff Dyer arguing that while people can argue about Parker or Coltrane, nobody who likes jazz at all can dislike Ben Webster. Person's been steathily stalking Webster for 40 years now. Still doesn't have the vibrato, but he's damn close in every other aspect. A

Early Trane: The John Coltrane Songbook [The Composer Collection Volume 2] (1999-2006 [2008], High Note): Easy to write this off as mere catalog exploitation, but the catalog is mainstream solid, and they make something of a case for taking Coltrane -- at least up through "Giant Steps" -- seriously for repertoire. Mostly saxophonists, of course, especially if you score Billy Hart's nominal album for Mark Turner, but pianist Mike LeDonne gets a cut and guitarist Larry Coryell gets two. Frank Morgan, with two cuts, takes "Equinox," and Fathead Newman lands "Naima" -- a worthwhile cut from a dud album. B+(*)

Joey DeFrancesco: Joey D! (2008, High Note): One thing Joe Fields learned from his early years at Prestige was the need to keep product circulating. Prestige was notorious for just corralling a bunch of guys in the studio, letting them play anything they felt comfortable with, and ripping off an album or two in an afternoon. Sometimes that worked marvelously: Miles Davis wrapped up four albums in two days to clear up his contract so he could move on to Columbia, and they're among the best hard bop records of the 1950s. Coleman Hawkins turned in some marvelous records, and Sonny Rollins reached his first summit with Saxophone Colossus. But others, like Jackie McLean and John Coltrane, just turned out fast and easy product before they moved on to labels that made (or let) them develop. Fields still records a lot of material that seems like average fare for any given artist, and he staggers releases on a pair of labels -- Savant and High Note -- to keep more releases in play longer. I could have written the above to go with half of his releases, but this one strikes me as a good example: it is both perfectly typical of DeFrancesco's organ trio work and exemplary in how it shows how he got to be the top-rated organ player of the last decade-plus. Jerry Weldon plays tenor sax: a little more aggressively Coltrane-ish than the norm for soul jazz outings. Byron Landham drums. DeFrancesco straddles the bass and piano roles, like he learned from Papa John (not to mention Jimmy Smith). One semi-novelty is "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," where the base organ riffs are clichés meant to be messed with. B+(**)

Count Basie Orchestra: Mustermesse Basel 1956 Part 1 (1956 [2009], TCB): Volume 19 in TCB's "Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series": old radio tapes from famous bands who wandered through Switzerland 50+ years ago. Such records are common on European labels, and likely to become more so as Europe's more sensible copyright laws dump old performances into the public domain. Most such records I've heard offer little of new interest and are usually second choices, if that, for listening pleasure. This is exceptional on both counts: it is better in almost every respect -- sharper arranging, more virtuosic solos, even sounds terrific -- than any contemporary Basie recording I'm familiar with (e.g., the studio April in Paris or 1957's live Count Basie at Newport). It's also not so far removed from the Old Testament virtues, like soloists who aren't just cogs in the machine. A-

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

For this cycle's collected Jazz Prospecting notes, look here.


  • Seamus Blake Quartet: Live in Italy (Jazz Eyes, 2CD)
  • Roger Davidson & Raúl Jaurena: Pasión por la Vida (Soundbrush)
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Mama's House Live: 35th Anniversary Project (Katalyst Entertainment/City Hall): Feb. 17
  • Hal Galper/Reggie Workman/Rashied Ali: Art-Work (Origin)
  • Steve Haines Quintet with Jimmy Cobb: Stickadiboom (Zoho)
  • Fareed Haque + the Flat Earth Ensemble: Flat Planet (Owl Studios)
  • Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama (KMB Jazz)
  • Branford Marsalis: Metamorphosen (Marsalis Music): advance, Mar. 17
  • Bob Sneider & Joe Locke [Film Noir Project]: Nocturne for Ava (Origin)
  • Sound Assembly: Edge of the Mind (Beauport Jazz)
  • John Stetch: TV Trio (Brux)
  • Ton Trio: The Way (Singlespeed Music): Aram Shelton; Mar. 3


  • El Guincho: Alegranza (XL)
  • Franco: Francophonic: A Retrospective, Vol. 1 1953-1980 (Sterns Africa, 2CD)
  • Les Amazones de Guinée: Wamato (Sterns Africa)
  • Rich Man's War: New Blues & Roots Songs of Peace and Protest (Ruf)
  • The Rough Guide to Colombian Street Party (World Music Network)
  • Taylor Swift: Fearless (Big Machine)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

House Log

Expected bad weather last two days, including snow today, but it was merely cold, and not super cold at that -- about 40F both days. Had weather been worse, we would have concentrated on indoor tasks, like putting the vent hood up, and painting. As it was, we cut a lot of wood: the corner pantry unit, the pantry shelf superstructure, and the chimney face unit between the refrigerator box and the short wall. We should get them assembled over the next couple of days -- most important are the first and last since they affect the outline of the floor. Also got a lot of little things done: finished bathroom door, with new satin nickel hinges and door handle; primed and painted dining room windows white like cabinets; put a coat of Aqua Plastic on the inside of the refrigerator and range side-pullout boxes; wired outlets in the toe-kicks of the east and north shelf units; rerouted speaker wire (still need to wire through volume switch).

Shopped for cabinet pulls; bought some possible choices, but haven't decided yet. Will wait for countertop, to be installed Monday. Took the old sink out, and cleared off the countertop area so we're ready for install. Tile floor is scheduled for Tuesday (floor prep and backer board install), Wednesday (tile lay), and Thursday (grouting). We need to get the corner pantry cabinet and the meta-refrigerator shelf unit in place for that, as well as pull the toilet. First part of install will be to prep the floor under range and refrigerator. Those areas won't have tile, but will be raised to tile height. Not sure how that's going to work, or how space will be finished; as such, I'm worried about how that will go. Not sure when we will tackle the vent hood, given that we'll have other people working in the vicinity, at least while the floor is being done. That may be a good time to work on the south-side dining room shelf units, which we've long neglected, not least because they've been pretty useful for tool storage.

Not part of the project, but had one of my NEC MultiSync 97F monitors die last night, leaving me unable to use my main computers. Moved the monitor from the Windows machine over (another 97F), and went out to pick up a new LCD monitor tonight (Samsumg 2333SW), which I will probably put on the Windows machine for now, figuring that's less disruption. This is the fourth computer failure we've had during this project, a spike of unreliability unlike anything I can remember: the LCD monitor for the security cameras died; my home-brewed low-end Ubuntu box died (still down; wasn't able to troubleshoot and haven't had any time to take it in); and Laura's UPS signalled that it couldn't hold a charge (old, heavy APC unit; replaced it with Office Depot's cheaper in-house brand, Ativa).

While I was scanning sale ads I noticed a KitchenAid mixer that I had been thinking about buying for a long time. Found it cheaper still at Amazon, in a color that seems perfect for our decor, so I ordered one. Another minor milestone: first appliance upgrade to go with kitchen upgrade. Planning on buying a smaller microwave, so that may be next. Picked the current one based on Consumer Reports, and feel like I really got burned on it, so don't know how to evaluate. (My previous one was from JC Penny, a fancy unit I bought in the early 1980s; lasted over 20 years, and the sensor worked much better than the one on the GE that replaced it.) I want something small enough I can put it up on a shelf rather than on the pantry cove counter. We only use the microwave for warming, thawing, and (mostly) quickie frozen dinners, so something closer to 1 than 2 cu. ft. should suffice.

Friday, February 13, 2009

House Log

Took the range box apart and made two changes: chopped the side off 3/4-inch shorter so we could put a door/faceplate on it that would line up with the cabinets on the other side of the range; chopped a hole in the back, about 6x7 inches, to provide access to the gas shutoff and electric outlet. Not sure how we'll cover the latter, but seems like a useful thing to have. (Otherwise you'd have to drag the range out before you could shut the gas off.) Fleshed out the right side of the box to frame a large pull-out unit, or (less desirably) a tall, deep slide-in shelf. Looks solid even without the top, and frames the range nicely.

Assembled the refrigerator box we cut out yesterday. Basically just have three sides plus a top cap. Back wall extends straight out from the pantry nook along the line of a wall that had been knocked out in the last remodel -- we found a 1978 receipt, so that probably dates it. Left side is a couple of inches off the chimney, and everything else should be squared off. Top is 74 inches high -- well short of the ceiling, but taller than any standalone refrigerator I could find. Box width is large enough to accommodate a 36-inch unit, although for now we'll keep out 33-inch Kenmore. Design still calls for a set of faceboards, which can be boxed down to near the refrigerator size, then replace if/when we get a larger refrigerator.

Put speakers up in the above-range box. Still need to reroute the speaker wire, which should be done after the refrigerator box is done and before the hood is installed. That is about where we are right now. Picked up the plastic sheeting in the dining room, so we got out wood floors back (dirty but not too damaged). Hooked up outlet boxes for the shelf unit toe-kicks, but stopped short of hooking them into the breaker box. Put another coat of paint on the bathroom door, and touched the corner shelf unit up a bit. Floor guy came by to take a look around. He's planning on laying backer board down on Tuesday; tile on Wednesday; grout on Thursday. All this assumes tiles will come in on Tuesday, as promised.

All in all, a productive day. Real nice in the morning, but a cold front descended in the afternoon and it got a bit chilly. Next couple of days should be downright cold.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

House Log

Short day today: had a dentist appointment late afternoon, so Kelly kicked off to do some errands. Thought I'd work on something when I got back, but dallied around. Big thing we did get accomplished today was to cut out the refrigerator box. Did some research and decided that the doors should be outside the box, so it didn't have to be as deep as I was originally thinking -- 29.125 inches seems to be standard depth; I set it up for 31.5. Also decided to cap it at 74 inches instead of building to the ceiling. Will probably box the extra space in as some kind of storage, but for now we can just dump stuff on top of the box.

Cut the range box yesterday, and slapped it together. Made a couple of mistakes there: should have cut the side shorter to allow for a door or faceplate; also would like to have an access door to the gas and electric shutoff. Put it together with screws, so it should still be possible to disassemble and hack. Also need to finish the design on the right-side, which allows about 5 inches, probably for a large, deep pullout.

Paint stripped worked so-so on the dining room window frames, at least getting us back to white paint or primer. They're ready to be painted.

Put together something EureakZone calls the Smart Table -- bought the kit, so had to provide the wood and assemble it. Used it for slicing up four sheets of plywood. Aside from one misjudgment it worked very nicely, providing ample support for almost everything we wanted to cut.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jazz Consumer Guide: Little Innovations Run the World

The long-awaited 18th Jazz Consumer Guide -- the previous one came out on September 17 -- is in the Village Voice this week. This is probably the longest stretch between columns -- the result of losing a month-plus in Detroit, more than that working on my house here, and hitting a scheduling jam at the Voice. We're already six weeks into Jazz Prospecting for the next one, and the good news is that I've already hit my minimum word count. That's partly because the final layout cuts will show up as reviews next time:

  • Patricia Barber: The Cole Porter Mix (Blue Note) [A-]
  • Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble: Proverbs for Sam (2001, Boxholder) [A-]
  • Kris Davis: Rye Eclipse (Fresh Sound New Talent) [A-]
  • Cassandra Wilson: Loverly (Blue Note) [A-]
  • Martial Solal Trio: Longitude (CAM Jazz) [HM]
  • Corey Wilkes: Drop It (Delmark) [HM]
  • Ryan Blotnick: Music Needs You (Songlines) [HM]
  • Sheila Jordan: Winter Sunshine (Justin Time) [HM]

Given how far behind/ahead I was this time, I did a fair amount of cherry-picking, holding good records by relative obscurities back (e.g.: Oleg Kireyev, Zaid Nasser, Gust Spenos, and more regrettably Bill Cole and Kris Davis) in order to not fall even further behind with better known artists. Next time may swing the other way, but most likely by the time I get it squared away I'll be in a similar pickle. As I've said before, it would be nice to be able to turn these columns over at least twice as often. That I haven't done so is as much my fault as the Voice's, although I suspect there would be foot-dragging delays there if I submitted columns more often. Not at fault are the artists, who continue to deluge me with more worthwhile product than I can digest in a timely fashion.

One thing I normally do every cycle is trim back the surplus, recognizing that I'll never get to a lot of things that I once thought worth keeping in play. I list those in my surplus file, and usually write up some short reviews of items I still want to draw a bit of attention to. Didn't have time to do much of that this cycle, but I had this one item in the file:

Jenny Scheinman (2008, Koch): A creditable but fairly conventional alt-country effort, showing good taste in covers, originals with some feel and insight, a voice that is neither here nor there. Could turn into a career move, but more likely a lark. She is, after all, one of the 3-5 most accomplished jazz violinists in the world. B+(**)

The done list currently numbers 128 records, which is about double where it should be, so next time I'm going to have to cull quite a bit. Just no time for that now.

I reviewed/noted 286 records while working on this column. The Jazz Prospecting notes are here.

PS: Any publicists who wish to receive my Jazz CG mail (very light; mostly just announcements), please contact me. My mail list technology is very crude and unsatisfactory, and I haven't been very dilligent at maintaining it. Sorry about that. It's impossible for me to keep up with the volume of publicist mail, but occasionally I try to make up en masse.

Publicist's letter:

The Village Voice has published my 18th Jazz Consumer Guide column this
week: Little Innovations Run the World:


Note that there is also a second web page.

Pick Hits:

  Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: We Are MTO (Mowo!)
  Vijay Iyer: Tragicomic (Sunnyside);


  Ben Allison & Man Size Safe: Little Things Run the World (Palmetto)
  Steven Bernstein: Diaspora Suite (Tzadik)
  Dave Douglas & Keystone: Moonshine (Greenleaf Music)
  Mike Ellis: Bahia Band (Alpha Pocket)
  Scott Fields Freetet: Bitter Love Songs (Clean Feed)
  Fieldwork: Door (Pi)
  David Murray/Mal Waldron: Silence (Justin Time)
  Sun Ra: Some Blues but Not the Kind That's Blue (Atavistic)
  Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 1 (Doxy/Emarcy)
  Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (Atavistic)

Honorable Mentions:

  Steve Reid Ensemble: Daxaar (Domino)
  Maceo Parker: Roots & Grooves (Heads Up)
  Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. III: The Croydon Concert, May 14, 1981
    (Widow's Taste)
  Peter Brötzmann/Peeter Uuskyla: Born Broke (Atavistic)
  Bobby Previte & the New Bump: Set the Alarm for Monday (Palmetto)
  Houston Person/Ron Carter: Just Between Friends (High Note)
  Jon Larsen: The Jimmy Carl Black Story (Zonic Entertainment/Hot Club)
  Marcin Wasilewski Trio: January (ECM)
  ZMF Trio: Circle the Path (Drip Audio)
  Territory Band-6 With Fred Anderson: Collide (Okka Disk)
  Louie Bellson & Clark Terry: Louie & Clark Expedition 2 (Percussion Power)
  Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis: Two Men With the Blues (Blue Note)
  Esmée Althuis/Albert Van Veenendaal: The Mystery of Guests (Evil Rabbit)
  Mort Weiss/Ron Eschete: All Too Soon (SMS Jazz)
  The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet: Our Delight (IPO)
  The Peter Brötzmann Octet: The Complete Machine Gun Sessions (Atavistic)


  Rob Mosher's Storytime: The Tortoise (Old Mill)
  Lindha Kallerdahl: Gold (ESP-Disk)
  Kate McGarry: If Less Is More...Nothing Is Everything (Palmetto)

The Jazz Prospecting list for this cycle covered 296 records:


The gaps between these columns have grown a bit: the last one was
Sept. 16, and the one before it was May 13. This has mostly been
due to massive disruptions on my time -- currently a big kitchen
remodel project. Again, I think this will turn back around in a
few weeks. I have a lot of good material left over from this one,
ready to run next time, plus a lot of stuff to listen to. Look
for further Jazz Prospecting each Monday. I'm trying to keep this
whole process as transparent as possible. The Jazz Prospecting
notes are often not up to snuff as reviews, but I try to make an
efficient and useful time/space tradeoff with them. The finished
columns are much more polished. I look at this one in particular
as a showcase of wonders.

I appreciate your support in making this column possible. Despite
not appearing more frequently, we do manage to cover a lot of new
jazz, and never fail to find unique items of exceptional interest.


Jazz CG Print Notes

Here are the notes on the records that finally appeared in Jazz Consumer Guide (18):

  • Ben Allison & Man Size Safe: Little Things Run the World ([2008], Palmetto): The liner notes show a broad thinker -- the title piece a tribute to Gaia hypothesis bacteria, the group name more immediately concerned with Dick Cheney. A-
  • Esmée Althuis/Albert Van Veenendaal: The Mystery of Guests (2006-07 [2008], Evil Rabbit): Don't know anything about Althuis, who plays alto sax, c-melody sax, and "blackophone" (total Google search count: 2). Always a bad sign when Google's "I Feel Lucky" website for a musician is tomhull.com. Van Veenendaal is a Dutch pianist I've taken an interest in -- his trio album Predictable Point of Impact is one of the few genuinely exciting piano trio albums to have appeared in the last few years. This is nominally a duo, leaning toward the saxophonist, who while not especially distinctive hangs doggedly in whatever game he finds himself in. As the title suggests, there are guests: Han Bennink (drums) on 3 cuts, Wilbert de Joode (double bass) on 4, Joost Buis (trombone, lap steel guitar) on 3, and Corrie van Binsbergen (guitar) on 2. B+(**)
  • Louie Bellson & Clark Terry: Louie & Clark Expedition 2 (2007 [2008], Percussion Power): Two old timers, Terry born 1920, Bellson 1924 (as Luigi Balassoni). Both came up in big bands, crossing paths in 1951 with Duke Ellington. Bellson by then had worked for Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Harry James. Terry was in between stretches with Count Basie. Don't think there's a previous Louie & Clark Expedition record -- most likely they're referring back to something that happened even before their time. Back in the day this may have been nothing special, but it packs a punch, and the good vibes are palpable. Bellson has extra help on drums: Sylvia Cuenca and Kenny Washington. There are extra trumpets too, but Terry is credited with six solos. Release date is the official one given by the publicist, who seems to like a lot of lead time. Looks to me like the album is already on sale at CD Baby. B+(***)
  • Steven Bernstein: Diaspora Suite (2007 [2008], Tzadik): A little overblown, but what do you expect in a suite? Using the Nels Cline Singers, plus extra guitar, as the core of his rhythm section, Bernstein gets by with two brass and two reeds, and sounds Ellingtonian in the bargain. What confused me at first was that by styling this as a Robert Altman tribute, I figured he was aiming for Basie. A-
  • Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: We Are MTO (2005 [2008], Mowo!): Different label, otherwise they could have called it MTO Volume 2. Bernstein's downtown big band is a spinoff from his work on Robert Altman's Kansas City film, basically an attempt to update the blues-based swing bands that toured around Kansas City in the 1920-30s. Or, at Bernstein puts it in explaining the title cut: "Don Redman meets Funkadelic at Count Basie's summer home by the lake." Old songs from Redman, Basie, and Fats Waller -- a nasty, strung-out "Viper Song"; also obscurities from Cecil Scott and Preston Jackson, a gritty "Makes No Difference," a hymnal "All You Need Is Love." Vocals on most pieces by guitarists Matt Munisteri and/or Doug Wamble. Violin by Charlie Burnham. Even better are the horns, which clash just enough to remind you that this is post-avant-garde swing. A- [Later: A]
  • Peter Brötzmann/Peeter Uuskyla: Born Broke (2006 [2008], Atavistic, 2CD): Duo, stripped down from the trio that recorded the excellent Medicina in 2004. The loss of the bassist limits the color and shadings, but drummer Uusklya breaks loose impressively. Brötzmann is credited on the back cover with tenor sax and clarinet, but the booklet photos show him on alto sax with some other instruments sitting off to the side, possibly his trusty taragato. Does sound more like tenor, though. One can argue that he's mellowing a bit, but that's sort of like saying the Himalayas are eroding. First disc has three pieces totalling 57:51; second one piece at 38:24. The thin, harsh sound wears over time, but the rough hewn musicianship can be dazzling. B+(***)
  • The Peter Brötzmann Octet: The Complete Machine Gun Sessions (1968 [2007], Atavistic): Roughly speaking, this is where Europe's jazz avant-garde takes off, building a tradition rooted in brutal cacophony, disjointed rhythm, and cartoonish irreverance. The three saxophonists went on to major careers: Evan Parker, Willem Breuker, and Brötzmann. They turn these long pieces into free fire zones, blaring in unison siren wails, splitting off to scratch through the dirt and the rubble. Two bassists: Peter Kowald and Buschi Niebergall. Two drummers: Han Bennink and Sven-Ake Johansson. One pianist: Fred Van Hove. Each has his own mind, but the piano is especially worth tracking. Original LP ran 37:08. CD reissue added two alternate takes, and now this edition adds a third take of the title piece, done live with extra saxophonist Gerd Dudek. Still fits on one CD, but it's an awful lot to sit through. B+(**)
  • Dave Douglas & Keystone: Moonshine (2007 [2008], Greenleaf Music): Still can't say all the results are in, but I've been dazzled enough to make the call. The new saxophonist, Marcus Strickland, lives up to his illustrious predecessors -- Chris Potter and Donny McCaslin. Still, the hottest horn on the record is the leader's trumpet, reminding everyone why he wins all those polls. You can chalk the front line up to sheer virtuosity, but interesting stuff is happening in the engine room as well. Douglas has dabbled with electronica for several years, but DJ Olive's scratching and Adam Benjamin's Fender Rhodes have finally clicked. A-
  • Mike Ellis: Bahia Band (2005 [2008], Alpha Pocket): Recorded in Salvador, Brazil, with a mostly Brazilian band, picking up a Professor of African Percussion at the Music Academy of Bahia named Dou Dou Coumba Rose, a Jamaican vocalist from Guyana named Ricky Husbands, a guitarist named Munir Hossn who claims Barcelona, Paris, and Senegal among his homes but was born in Brazil. Mostly guitar (Mou Brasil as well as Hossn) and percussion, setting up a complex, rumbling riddim, which the horns -- Gileno Santana on trumpet, Marcio Tobias on alto sax, Ellis on soprano -- ride along with, although Ellis in particular remains sharp enough to cut the grease. More elemental than Speak in Tones, and better for it. A-
  • Scott Fields Freetet: Bitter Love Songs (2007 [2008], Clean Feed): I've played this record a lot on the road the last month, and it's never let me down. The avant-guitarist has a tendency elsewhere to diddle in abstractions, but he plays with remarkable logic here -- bitterness must focus the mind. The Freetet adds bass and drums, bulking up the sound and punctuating the emotions. A-
  • Fieldwork: Door (2007 [2008], Pi): Easy last time to treat this as Vijay Iyer's group, but alto saxophonist Steve Lehman has moved even more front and center, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey wound up writing the majority of the pieces. In many respects, Iyer functions more like a bassist, steadying the rhythm and filling out the sound, taking few solos. The last cut, Lehman's "Rai," remains the prize for its dynamism, but other tracks are nearly as exciting, and the slow stuff doesn't lose interest or its sense of danger. I held Iyer's excellent Tragicomic back from JCG(17), so (18) looks like his day. A-
  • Vijay Iyer: Tragicomic (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): This took a while to sink in. The turning point may been when I flashed on the notion that Iyer is a new generation McCoy Tyner. Iyer has equivalent facility with the keyboard, although he rarely if ever lapses into Oscar Peterson swing -- he draws the line at, well, McCoy Tyner, but more often favors rhythmic repetition and variation rather than line development. Like Tyner, he generally works in a sax quartet, and like Tyner he often overshadows, indeed overpowers, the horn. One might also note that Iyer's saxophonist, Rudresh Mahanthappa, has a strong Coltrane-ish streak, but that's not so evident here. Mahanthappa has strong and weak outings, and he didn't make much of a first impression here. He only plays on 7 of 11 cuts, often making little more than a buzz around Iyer's prodigious piano. The trio cuts open up more, not least because they give Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums more room to shine. One solo cut is further dampened, but logically impeccable. A
  • Lindha Kallerdahl: Gold (2006 [2008], ESP-Disk): Swedish vocalist. Album spells first name Lindah in two prominent locations, including the spine, and Google prefers Lindah, but her website and MySpace page both prefer Lindha. (I've also seen Linda several places.) Born 1972, studied in Stockholm, has mostly worked with avant-gardists: Mats Gustafsson, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Jaap Blonk, Ikue Mori. Plays some piano, but most of this is solo voice: sharp, shrill, jumps around an astounding range, sometimes with remarkable control, more often with wild abandon. I find it rather hideous, although "All of Me" made me smile, and "Body & Soul" might have had I figured it out earlier. C+
  • Jon Larsen: The Jimmy Carl Black Story (2007 [2008], Zonic Entertainment/Hot Club, 2CD): Subtitled A Surrealistic Space Odyssey. Norwegian guitarist, key member of the Django-oriented Hot Club de Norvège, but more eclectic, with some fusion projects and who knows what else. Also paints, following Salvador Dali. This spins off from an album last year, Strange News From Mars, which had a couple of bits featuring Jimmy Carl Black -- best known as drummer in the Mothers of Invention before Frank Zappa split them up. Black does spoken word, reading Larsen's "libretto" over some minimal but loosey goosey guitar/marimba rhythms. Black starts out reminding us that he's "the Indian in the band"; later he reads a "semi-alphatetic list of canine races in cryptic German" -- you know, Amerikanisch Wienerschnifferhund, Bayerischer Gebirgsschweisshund, Mark Spitz, Grosspudel; finally he returns to Mars, meeting up with a real Martian ("And it's a big one!"), who looks "quite like Zorg in my Gary Larsson calendar" and, uh, has her way with him. Fun music, funny stuff. Second disc is just Black talking about his life: growing up in Texas with his racist stepfather; working odd jobs between stretches with odder bands -- driving a line truck in Wichita, painting houses in Austin; hanging with Janis Joplin and Ringo Starr; trying to hide drugs from Zappa; marrying a fan and settling down in Germany. Black died Nov. 1, shortly after this came out. B+(***)
  • Kate McGarry: If Less Is More (2007 [2008], Palmetto): Everything (2007 [2008], Palmetto): Vocalist. First album in 1992; four more since 2001, three on Palmetto since 2005. Irving Berlin song is ordinary, but she's not content with standards, so moves on to Bob Dylan, Steve Stills, Joni Mitchell, Ric Ocasek. Could have picked better on all counts, but she's too limited to work within those limits. Of course, she also does Jobim, and Djavan for good measure. And writes two originals. All of this would be merely mediocre but she brings in fellow Moss-heads Jo Lawry and Pete Eldridge, who work their usual voodoo. Got a Grammy nod for this. C
  • The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet: Our Delight (2006 [2008], IPO): Bebop upstarts, schooled in swing, of course, with Coleman Hawkins bridging the way on "Body and Soul" and "Woody 'N You" -- both included here in a program that leans heavily on Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Dameron, and focuses more on Moody -- one by him, "Moody's Groove" about him. Jones, of course, is the perfect good sport. Moody's tenor sax is delightful; I would have preferred less flute. B+(**)
  • Rob Mosher's Storytime: The Tortoise (2007-08 [2008], Old Mill): Soprano saxophonist, from Canada, based in New York, also plays oboe and English horn here, writing for a 10-piece group with four reed players -- more clarinet and flute than saxophone -- three brass including French horn, guitar, bass and drums. Reportedly Mosher is self-taught, so it may not be fair to attribute this to the jazz-classical merger in the academies. But this is as pop-classical as Prokofiev, with all the hokum laid out so intricately you sometimes forget how the game works. It's an old saw that jazz is America's classical music, but that came out of an age when we all thought that America was different, so naturally our classical music would be something else. Now jazz is the world's classical music, and it's returning to its common denominator. B-
  • David Murray/Mal Waldron: Silence (2001 [2008], Justin Time): Cut in Brussels a year before Waldron's death, this may now be seen as a remembrance of an all-time piano great, but Murray fills the room so prodigiously that you have to work to hear how skillfully Waldron ties it all together. He first gained fame as Billie Holiday's accompanist, and even decades later, with dozens of his own often brilliant albums, that was what he was best known for. He wrote three songs here, to one by Murray -- the three covers also favor Waldron. But Murray bowls over everyone, especially one on one, so this winds up being another referendum on him. A-
  • Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis: Two Men With the Blues (2007 [2008], Blue Note): Recorded live under from two dates organized by Marsalis's Jazz at Lincoln Center empire. Neither man has any real claim to the blues, but it was only an organizing idea in the first place; in any case, the album reverted to Nelson's songbook, with two originals ("Night Life" and "Rainy Day Blues"), two Hoagy Carmichael standards Nelson has done before ("Stardust" and "Georgia on My Mind"), "Bright Lights Big City," "Caldonia," "Basin Street Blues," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," "Ain't Nobody's Business," and a Merle Travis joke called "That's All" -- not sure how many of those Nelson has recorded before, but the answer could be all ten. Marsalis provided the band, framing Nelson's silky voice with polished brass. A quickie, the sort of trivia that Nelson routinely tosses off as proof of his genius. B+(***)
  • Maceo Parker: Roots & Grooves (2007 [2008], Heads Up, 2CD): An alto saxophonist, Parker has played on dozens of great albums, but he's never put his name on one before. He joined James Brown in 1964, then moved on to George Clinton in 1975 and back to Brown in 1984. Both leaders spun off instrumental albums, first as the J.B.'s, then as the Horny Horns. Since 1989 Parker has recorded a dozen albums, mostly underachieving the modest goals announced in their titles: Roots Revisited, Mo' Roots, Life on Planet Groove, Funk Overload, etc. This looked like another, until I popped it in and it blasted off into "Hallelujah I Love Her So." First disc is titled "Tribute to Ray Charles," and works through "Busted," "Hit the Road Jack," a few more, climaxing with "What'd I Say." Parker sings a few -- he's more Cleanhead Vinson than Ray Charles, but that works for me. Parker doesn't have the direct connection that Fathead Newman has, but he started out when Charles was laying the foundation his whole career was built on. Second disc is called "Back to Funk": five originals and "Pass the Peas" from J.B.'s days. It's less obvious and every bit as exciting. The secret in both cases is the band. Directed by Michael Abene, the WDR Big Band Köln will play anything with anyone -- their purpose, after all, is to crank out radio shots with visiting dignitaries -- and they've never amounted to much, but they have a ball here. Maybe it's too easy: Charles ran a big band himself, and scaling Parker's grooves up to J.B.-size is as obvious as it is fun. Parker gloats in the dêjà vu. With Charles and Brown gone, he's just the guy to honor them. [Note: Don't know when this was recorded. Album appears to have been released in Europe in 2007, and reissued in US by Heads Up, which has been picking up quite a bit of WDR Big Band material.] A-
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. III: The Croydon Concert, May 14, 1981 (1981 [2008], Widow's Taste, 2CD): A hot set with a group -- Milcho Leviev on piano, Bob Magnuson on bass, Carl Burnett on drums -- Pepper toured often but recorded rarely with. He calls them his favorite group, and they repay the compliment -- there seems to be no end to wondrous tapes from his last years. A-
  • Houston Person/Ron Carter: Just Between Friends (2005 [2008], High Note): Too easy. You'd think that at least they would jack up the bass volume and let Carter expand a bit on such obvious standards, but he mostly just strums along -- could be any old bassist. And it's not like Person is driving him off the stage: every song is taken in a poke, with the sax volume toned down too. Still, from "How Deep Is the Ocean" to "Always" he's irresistible. B+(***)
  • Bobby Previte & the New Bump: Set the Alarm for Monday (2007 [2008], Palmetto): Previte's been leaning fusion the last few years, and that comes through in the slick riddims here where his drums and Bill Ware's vibes leapfrog over each other. That works well enough, but Ellery Eskelin's tenor sax is so singular it cuts through any accumulated grease, and guest Steven Bernstein doubles the threat on trumpet. B+(***)
  • Sun Ra: Some Blues but Not the Kind That's Blue (1973-77 [2007], Atavistic): A 6-track LP recorded in 1977, released on Saturn in 1978, plus an extra "Untitled" cut from the same session, plus two 1973 takes of "I'll Get By" done as trios (one with John Gilmore on tenor sax, the other with Akh Tal Ebah on flugelhorn). The 1977 sessions were cut with 10 musicians -- John Corbett describes this as a small group, but it's not much below Arkestra weight. Mostly covers, such as "My Favorite Things" and "Black Magic." I don't know Sun Ra well enough to have a good sense of how his discography fits together -- that may seem overly modest given that I have 30 of his albums in my ratings database -- so my rule of thumb is to lay back and see how pleasantly surprised I become. By that standard, this one fares pretty well. The familiar songs go off in curious directions. The horns cut grease, but this isn't really that much of a horn album. That's mostly because the tunes keep returning to the piano (or organ on the 1973 tracks), and Ra's mix of stride, bebop, and something from the outer reaches of the galaxy is pretty amazing. A-
  • Steve Reid Ensemble: Daxaar (2007 [2008], Domino): Album cover claims "(recorded in africa)" in small bold print against an outline of the continent. The title is evidently an archaic spelling of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, where Reid picked up trumpet (Roger Ongolo), guitar (Jimi Mbaye), bass (Dembel Diop), kora (Isa Kouyate, also spelled Koyate, while kora is also spelled korah), and percussion (Khadim Badji), studio pros with Youssou N'Dour and Super Diamono and others on their resumes. Kouyate also provides a vocal on the first song, called "Welcome," which is the only thing here that is unmistakably Senegalese. The rest are seductive little groove pieces. While the Africans go with the flow and flesh them out admirably, the real interest is in the keyboards (Boris Netsvetaev) and electronics (Kieran Hebden, who also does business as Four Tet), light and fleeting details in a thick jungle tableau. Reid's a drummer with a Zelig-like list of credits -- Martha Reeves' "Dancing in the Streets," John Coltrane, James Brown, Ornette Coleman, Fela Kuti, Sun Ra, Miles Davis -- despite spending most of his life in obscurity as an exile, now snug in Switzerland. He got some notice in 2006 for The Exchange Session, two volumes of laptop-drums improvs with Hebden, and that paid for his ticket to Africa. Not the first time he's been back, but this time he brought something extra to the party. A-
  • Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 1 (1980-2007 [2008], Doxy/Emarcy): I've read so many Gary Giddins columns raving about Sonny Rollins' live performances that my first reaction here is: is this the best you can do? Looking at the fine print, we see: 7 songs, from 7 different venues, 2 from 1980, 1 from 1986, 1 from 2000, 3 from 2006-07. The groups are nearly as scattered, with 2 pianists, 3 bassists, 5 drummers, trombonist Clifton Anderson on 4 cuts, guitarist Bobby Broom on 3, 2 percussionists on 3 cuts. Still, the striking thing is that none of that matters. One thing you can't say about Rollins is that he's a team player. He sounds exactly the same in any context over this 28 year stretch, so overwhelming it hardly matters who else is on stage. That isn't to deny the occasional piano or guitar solo. It's just to wonder who else could piece together such a coherent album from scraps like this? Giddins wrote the liner notes, proclaiming this one of Rollins' finest albums. I wouldn't put it in his top ten, and refer you all back to G-Man, which -- never having seen him live myself -- is how I've come to imagine him live. I don't doubt that this series will eventually turn tedious, especially once Rollins' heirs start vetting the takes, but for now this is just further evidence of what "saxophone colossus" means. A-
  • Territory Band-6 With Fred Anderson: Collide (2006 [2007], Okka Disk): Ken Vandermark's big band, originally formed to spend some of his MacArthur Genius Grant money. Original concept seems to have had something to do with the 1930s territory bands, but it's always been hard to hear that in the records. Now, in his liner notes Vandermark explains that his original idea was centered around Fred Anderson, and that he got distracted when he couldn't schedule Hamid Drake for the first session and wound up using Paul Lytton instead, which led to a transatlantic meeting of the avant-gardes, which led to the first five Territory Bands. This isn't far removed: Lytton is still on board, as are the usuals from Europe: Axel Doerner (trumpet), Per-Åke Holmlander (tuba), Lasse Marhaug (electronics), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Fredrik Ljungkvist (baritone/tenor sax), and newcomer David Stackenäs (guitar). In fact, they outnumber the Chicago crew: Anderson, Vandermark, Jim Baker (piano), Dave Rempis (alto/tenor sax), Kent Kessler (bass), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). That makes for a big, sprawling group, and it's hard to keep it all straight. In particular, I can't disentangle the saxes -- Vandermark, Rempis, and Ljungkvist compete with Anderson at tenor, although each plays a second instrument as well. And tenor sax isn't all that prominently featured here, even if it produces most of the wind in the occasional squalls. Marhaug's electronics have gotten to where they register as integral to the music, and Doerner's trumpet stands out. The five-part piece hold together nicely, and Anderson gets his props at the end. B+(***)
  • Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (2006 [2008], Atavistic): Downbeat's review mentions a second disc, included with the first 1500 copies, something called "The New York Suite: Part One's for Painters (for Willem De Kooning, Hans Hoffmann, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko), Part 2: Composers (for Earle Brown, John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolf), Part 3: Improvisers (for Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor)." Didn't get my copy until well after initial release, and when it did come it didn't include the bonus disk. Previous teaser discs were eventually rereleased as Free Jazz Classics, Vols. 1-4. Every review I've read focuses on the integration of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm into the group -- this is the second album since he replaced Jeb Bishop. I don't really hear it or understand it. The cello lacks the volume and dynamics to compete with the horns, but one reason it does emerge more here is that there are a couple of softer pieces that lead with cello, and it matches up well against Vandermark's clarinet. But most of the pieces crank up the volume, and the one thing that emerges most clearly there is how terrific Vandermark has gotten on the baritone sax. This makes 13 albums in 11 years. The only one I didn't much care for was Simpatico, back in 1998, and the last one I held short of the A-list was Burn the Incline in 2000. Nothing here to complain about. A-
  • Marcin Wasilewski Trio: January (2007 [2008], ECM): A piano trio, they originally appeared as veteran trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's "young Polish quartet," but here go by their own own names, with bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz joining pianist Wasilewski on the cover. They conjure up a near perfect quietstorm of ECM piano, every little detail locked snugly into place. You almost don't notice how artful it all is, because it almost slips by unnoticed. B+(***)
  • Mort Weiss: All Too Soon (2008, SMS Jazz): Plays clarinet, b. 1935, grew up in the bebop generation, only dabbled in music until he retired from business and started issuing his own records. This is a duo with seven-string guitarist Ron Eschete, probably a better known player, although the album cover doesn't attempt to link to his market. Starts with "Scrapple From the Apple," adding "Blue Monk" and "Django," but also slips in a few standards -- "Like Someone in Love," "Softly as in Morning Sunrise," etc. About what you'd expect: low key, nicely done. Thank God for FDR, Charlie Christian, and Charlie Parker. B+(**)
  • ZMF Trio: Circle the Path (2005 [2007], Drip Audio): Stands for Jesse Zubot (violin), Jean Martin (drums), Joe Fonda (bass). Avant-garde, kind of a Revolutionary Ensemble for liberal Vancouver. B+(***)

Jazz CG Flush Notes

Here are the notes on the records I listened to during the Jazz CG (18) cycle and decided not to write about:

  • Eric Alexander Quartet: Prime Time: In Concert (2007 [2008], High Note, CD+DVD): After a stretch of three or four lousy records -- including his Temple of Olympic Zeus dud, and his part in David Hazeltine's The Inspiration Suite, a record that's only barely escaped my duds list -- this is a return to form. He's a powerful mainstream sax player, and he charges straight ahead through everything here. Hazeltine, John Webber, and Joe Farnsworth provide their usual solid support. The whole thing, and then some, is also on the DVD, if you're into that sort of thing. B+(**)
  • Rashied Ali/Charles Gaylr/William Parker: By Any Means: Live at Crescendo (2007 [2008], Ayler, 2CD): By Any Means is probably meant to be the group name, but the principals are listed on the front cover, top to bottom as above (that would be alphabetically), and their names go further toward explaining what this is or why anyone should care. This is the same trio that recorded, under Gayle's name, Touchin' on Trane back in 1991 -- one of those Penguin Guide crown albums. So it's a little disconcerting that this gets off so awkwardly at first -- even more so that Parker is the odd man out. Ali gets 3 of the first 4 pieces; Gayle the other one and the next 3; Parker recovers on his own 3-song second disc stretch, ending with a group improv. The sound isn't all that sharp. The moves are unexceptional for these guys -- Gayle at full speed is quite a treat, but he's been there and done that many times before. B+(*)
  • Misha Alperin: Her First Dance (2006 [2008], ECM): Was a very slow one, with piano, cello, and French horn or flugelhorn for a little coloring. Extremely understated, but generates an almost hypnotic allure, without suspecting as much. B+(**)
  • The Stephen Anderson Trio: Forget Not (2008, Summit): No recording date. AMG thinks this was released in 2004, but booklet refers to later events, and cover is copyright 2008. A lot of google noise on Anderson's name, but as best I can figure he studied at UNT, got a Ph.D., and teaches at UNC-Charlotte. Plays piano. This is his first album, although he plays on a couple of albums under bassist Lynn Seaton and one with drummer Joel Fountain. Wrote 7 of 8 songs here, the exception "For Sentimental Reasons." Jeff Eckels plays bass, Fountain drums. Solid stuff, thoughtful, logical, forceful -- he's not shy about power chords. Extensive liner notes, with lots of references to clasical composers. B+(**)
  • Roy Assaf & Eddy Khaimovich Quartet: Andarta (2007 [2008], Origin): Two Israelis, who met by chance in New York and found they fit. Assaf plays piano; Khaimovich bass. The quartet fills out with Robin Verheyen on sax and Ronen Itzik on drums, but Verheyen sits out a couple of cuts to make way for Roy Hargrove on trumpet. Postbop with a dash of world groove. B+(*)
  • Chet Baker: Chet in Chicago (1986 [2008], Enja): With the Bradley Young Trio -- Young on piano, Larry Gray on bass, Rusty Jones on drums -- plus tenor saxophonist Ed Peterson on three cuts. The fifth volume of Enja's Chet Baker Legacy series, sweeping up the previously unreleased leftovers from a long and notable career. Sprightly piano, fine trumpet, and Baker whisking his way through his umpteenth "My Funny Valentine." B+(**)
  • Jeff Barone: Open Up (2008, Jazzed Media): Guitarist, b. 1970 Syracuse, NY; studied at Ithaca College and Manhattan School of Music; based in NYC; second album. Most of the cuts here are in a group with Ron Oswanski on organ and Rudy Petschauer on drums, so much so that the record often falls into a slick groove bordering on smooth. There are horns, too, which ultimately prove superfluous, although Joe Magnarelli opens on trumpet like it's his own album. I like the exceptions better, including a solo piece called "Quiet Now." Ends with an alternate take of "Falling in Love With Love" which holds up better than the main take, possibly because it's set off from the flow, or maybe because it comes off less cluttered. B
  • Kenny Barron: The Traveler (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): First time through I was getting ready to slam this when a track with guitarist Lionel Loueke caught my ear -- reminded me that my favorite Barron record paired him with another guitarist, Mino Cinelu, Swamp Sally (1995, Verve). Loueke appears on three cuts here: one a duo with the pianist, two augmenting the trio, one of those with vocalist Gretchen Parlato. Another pass highlights some other points, but they remain scattered. Ann Hampton Callaway's vocal is nuanced, but Grady Tate's isn't. Parlato isn't a plus. Loueke fairs better with the trio than in the duo, which I score heavily for Barron. Soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson's three pieces improve on rehearing. I can't say whether I'd like Barron's trio better without the distractions, but here they come as a relief. And Barron closes with a fine solo on Eubie Blake's "Memories of You." B+(**)
  • John Beasley: Letter to Herbie (2008, Resonance): Pianist, b. 1960 in Louisiana. Toured with Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard in the 1980s, cut a couple of crossover albums on Windham Hill, scratched out a living doing ad jingles and filmworks. Plays Fender Rhodes and synth as well as piano. Mostly Hancock songs, with two originals and one by Wayne Shorter. Christian McBride, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Roy Hargrove get their name on the front cover as "featuring" while Steve Tavaglione, Michael O'Neill, and Louis Conte don't. Emphasizes Hancock's hard bop side over his fusion moves, which is probably for the best. B+(*)
  • Judith Berkson: Lu-Lu (2006 [2008], Peacock): Singer, based in Brooklyn, no more bio available. First record, solo, plays piano/Wurlitzer. Four originals, five covers, 38:11 total, which is really quite enough. Slow and arty, with little of special interest, although the closing "Some Enchanted Evening" did something -- more haunted than enchanting, but something. C+
  • Will Bernard: Blue Plate Special (2008, Palmetto): Guitarist. Seemed to have an interesting take on postbop postfusion, but since he signed with Palmetto he's settled into a light funk groove which is buoyed mostly by working with competent artisans like John Medeski and Stanton Moore. Closes with a sweet "How Great Thou Art." B
  • Gene Bertoncini & Roni Ben-Hur: Smile (2008, Jazz Foundation/Motéma): Guitar duets. Bertoncini is older (70), swing-oriented, has a light touch that works well in intimate settings. Ben-Hur is much younger but possibly as well known, with 6 albums since 1997. Starts with "Killing Me Softly, seems like a faux pas to me. Otherwise, the sort of intricate interplay you'd expect. B
  • Emily Bezar: Exchange (2008, DemiVox): Singer, keyboardist, from San Francisco or Berkeley, has 5 albums since 1993, maybe more. AMG has her as Alt Pop/Rock, likening her to Kate Bush -- the vocal resemblance is obvious, although I find Bezar a little more idiosyncratic at times, more arch at others, and overall much less interesting. C
  • Adam Birnbaum: Travels (2008, Smalls): Pianist, first album. Group is nominally a quartet, but saxophonist Sharel Cassity is rarely to be heard. Postbop, I suppose. Bright and sharp, but runs on. B+(*)
  • Ketil Bjørnstad/Terje Rypdal: Life in Leipzig (2005 [2008], ECM): Duo, recorded live during the Leipziger Jazztage, which has some effect in pumping up the volume of the sound somewhat harshly. Rypdal's guitar sometimes sounds a little violinish. Bjørnstad's piano cuts through that, adds some rhythm, but never quite takes charge. B+(*)
  • Art Blakey and the Giants of Jazz: Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival (1972 [2008], Monterey Jazz Festival): Not a happy period in the drummer's career, but he plays with great physicality here, leading a ragtag crew of superstars in what could pass as a Jazz at the Philharmonic blowout; Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, and Kai Winding are natural jousters who offers great excitement but no surprises; the mystery is left to the troubled pianist in one of his last performances, but Thelonious Monk comps engagingly and takes a nice feature on "'Round Midnight." B+(***)
  • Walt Blanton: Monuments (2006 [2008], Origin): Trumpet player; front cover also names Tony Branco (piano) and John Nasshan (drums). All are based in Las Vegas, and play free jazz -- not real far out, but open enough to keep you off guard. B+(*)
  • Randy Brecker: Randy in Brasil (2006 [2008], MAMA): The surviving Brecker Brother. Has a checkered, mostly fusion-oriented, solo career, but pops up in other contexts, like the Mingus Big Band. Not sure how much Brazilian music he's done in the past, but he was married to Eliane Elias, which certainly counts for something. This one was cut in Brazil, produced by keyboardist Ruriá Duprat, with a local band including guitarist Ricardo Silveira. Two originals, plus a lot of Djavan, Ivan Lins, Gilberto Gil, and João Bosco. Flows well, and the trumpet is competent, but nothing stands out. B-
  • Dave Brubeck: 50 Years of Dave Brubeck: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007 (1958-2007 [2008], Monterey Jazz Festival): Starts with Paul Desmond for three 1958-66 quartet cuts and closes with three 2002-07 quartets with Bobby Militello on alto sax -- a sense of continuity and balance unlikely in any 50-year span. Gerry Mulligan figures in between, and only one cut lacks a horn, but the unique pacing of the pianist comes through again and again. A-
  • John Burnett Swing Orchestra: West of State Street/East of Harlem (2008, Delmark): Chicago-based big band, four trumpets plus guest Randy Sandke, four trombone, five reeds, the whole kit and kaboodle. Burnett hails from England, holds down a steady job as a radio DJ, directs the band. Frieda Lee sings two songs, and Tony Pons does his best Satchmo impersonation on "Hello Dolly." Website cites them as "keeping alive the sounds of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and others" -- most obviously Basie, especially when they crank up "April in Paris" more than one more time. B+(*)
  • California Guitar Trio: Echoes (2007 [2008], Inner Knot): Three guitarists, none from California except in their minds: Hideyo Moriya (Tokyo, Japan), Paul Richards (Salt Lake City, UT), Bert Lams (Brussels, Belgium). Started playing together in 1991 and have a dozen albums now. This is the first I've heard. All covers, with Pink Floyd providing the title cut, and someone named Ludwig Van Beethoven raided twice. Most of the songs sound tolerably New Agey, with little variation from "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "Tubular Bells." Two come with vocals, a mistake. C+
  • Bill Cantrall: Axiom (2007 [2008], Up Swing): Trombonist, originally from New Jersey, educated in Chicago, based in New York. First album. Composed 8 of 10 pieces. Group is a septet: four horns (Ryan Kisor on trumpet, Sherman Irby on alto sax, Stacy Dillard on tenor sax), piano (Rick Germanson, bass and drums. Qualifies as postbop, tightly arranged, well played, avoids common harmonic unpleasantries by leading with trombone. B+(*)
  • Bill Carrothers: Home Row (1992 [2008], Pirouet): Pianist, b. 1964, based in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- home of one of the great jazz fiction in cinema: Jimmy Stewart, in Anatomy of a Murder, hops out of his convertible and strides into a local bar, where Duke Ellington is playing. AMG starts Carrothers' discography in 1999, listing 11 albums. Carrothers' webpage shows 20 album covers, but doesn't offer a discography. This was cut much earlier. With Gary Peacock on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. Sounds a bit rough to me -- "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" is rushed almost unrecognizably, to no clear purpose. Still, an impressive debut -- admittedly, easy to say after a decade-plus of later records. B+(*)
  • Corey Christiansen: Roll With It (2008, Origin): Guitarist, 37 (I assume that means b. 1971), based in Utah after some time in St. Louis, second album since 2004. Basically a soul jazz group, with Pat Bianchi on the B-3, David Halliday on tenor sax, Matt Jorgensen on drums. Fresher than most; nice tone on the sax, slick lines from the guitar. B+(*)
  • Ablaye Cissoko/Volker Goetze: Sira (2007 [2008], Obliqsound): Cissoko, a Senegalese griot, plays delicate kora and sings serenely. Goetze plays trumpet, caressing the melodies, giving them a warm, burnished glow. Graceful and earnest, a bit underwhelming. B+(*)
  • Charmaine Clamor: My Harana: A Filipino Serenade (2008, FreeHam): Vocalist, from the Philippines. Previous album, Flippin' Out, mixed some native folk with usual standards for a nice mix of groove and swing. She seems to be going native here, which is admirable in principle but unfortunately lacking in groove or swing, or anything recognizable as a beat or pulse. B-
  • Mike Clark: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1 (2006 [2009], Talking House): New label, introducing three volumes in a same-titled series, the other two by drummer Donald Bailey and saxophonist Billy Harper -- all veteran players, not a lot under their names, although Harper is exceptional in several regards. Clark's discography starts with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters fusion group in 1974, although this is a pretty straightforward hard bop set, distinguished by bright, forceful performances from the band: Jed Levy (tenor sax), Donald Harrison (alto sax), Christian Scott (trumpet), Christian McBride (bass), Patrice Rushen (piano). Nice drumwork, too. B+(*)
  • George Colligan: Runaway (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): Pianist, mainstream to postbop, although he's developed a sideline on Fender Rhodes that qualifies as semi-fusion. Is still under 40, but has nearly 20 albums since 1996: prodigious, very talented, has dazzling speed and dynamics ("Ghostland" is a good example here), a lot of range. Don't think he's every made a weak record, but this one wanders more than I'd like: four cuts on Fender Rhodes and/or synths, five cuts with guitarist Tom Guarna, two with Kerry Politzer vocals, one with Politzer taking over piano while Colligan plays trumpet. (He previously played drums on Politzer's piano trio album.) B+(*)
  • Conference Call: Poetry in Motion (2005-06 [2008], Clean Feed): Quartet, consisting of Gebhard Ullman (soprano sax, tenor sax, bass clarinet), Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), Joe Fonda (bass), George Schuller (drums). Ullman and Stevens go back ten years, and Stevens and Fonda go back further, with a co-led group where Fonda gets top billing. All write. All play free, with some harsh notes, but mostly inside their framework. Ullman, whom I've often doubted, is especially solid here. B+(**)
  • Sean Conly: Re:Action (2007 [2008], Clean Feed): Bassist, from Gunnison, CO -- a few hundred miles up river from here; we used to go trout fishing there, marveling that the cold, narrow stream there turns into the big muddy that meanders across the plains here. Based in New York. First album. Writes most of his own material, although it's hard to get a sense of it, most being free sax jousts between Michael Attias and Tony Malaby -- good choices for that sort of thing. B+(*)
  • Jerry Costanzo With Andy Farber and His Swing Mavens: Destination Moon (2004-07 [2008], Semi-Quaver Jazz): Costanzo is a vocalist, as dead a ringer for Sinatra as I've heard in many years -- if anything, he makes it look easier, and the band helps in that regard. Repertoire has something to do with this: "I Thought About You," "Come Fly With Me," "Young at Heart," "Fly Me to the Moon"; with all the flying he throws in one from Nat Cole: "Straighten Up and Fly Right." Two sessions, separated by three years and quite a bit of turnover in the band. The edge goes to the later edition. B+(**)
  • Dan Cray Trio: Live: Over Here Over Heard (2008, Crawdad): Piano trio, with Clark Sommers on bass, Greg Wyser-Pratte on drums. Fourth album. One original, plus covers from Jobim, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter, Henry Mancini, "More Than You Know," "That Old Black Magic." Can't think of much to say about it. B
  • Cryptogramophone Assemblage 1998-2008 (1998-2007 [2008], Cryptogramophone, 2CD+DVD): Another jazz label sampler, founded by Jeff Gauthier to record a series of tributes to the late Eric von Essen's music, moving on to document work by Alex and Nels Cline, Mark Dresser, Bennie Maupin, Erik Friedlander, Myra Melford, various others. A more useful reference than the Justin Time sampler -- it covers a narrower band of music more comprehensively, with better documentation -- but still a mere sampler. B
  • Brian Cullman: All Fires the Fire (2008, Sunnyside): Singer-songwriter, from New York, first album. AMG classifies him as World, mostly based on liner notes he (presumably the same person) wrote for albums by the likes of Ghazal, the Sabri Brothers, Hassan Hakmoun, and Vernon Reid (who returns a blurb quote). Hype sheet quotes someone likening him to Leonard Cohen, which isn't way off base if you subtract about 95 years off Cohen's voice. Cullman has a sweet, wry voice, with an effortless meander to the songs, and something of a philosophical bent. "No God but God" gives me the creeps. B+(*)
  • The Miles Davis All-Stars: Broadcast Sessions 1958-59 (1958-59 [2008], Acrobat): Ten tracks from four sessions, with John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley missing one each, pianists ranging from Bill Evans to Red Garland to Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers on bass except for the cut Candido drops in on; no surprises, at least until Coltrane catches fire on the last cuts, reminiscent of Bird's Roosts. B+(**)
  • Dominique Di Piazza Trio: Princess Sita (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): French bassist, primarily electric, b. 1959 in Lyon. First album, but appeared on a Gil Evans album in 1987, in John McLaughlin's trio since 1991, with Bireli Lagrene, and a few others. Trio includes Nelson Veras on guitar, Manhu Roche on drums. Di Piazza wrote 8 of 12 pieces; Roche one; the others include "Nuages." Sounds to me like the guitarist has the upper hand, with the bass woven craftily into the background, but I'm having trouble unpacking it. Veras has one album on his own. He's an attractive player. B+(*)
  • Jason Domnarski Trio: Notes From Underground (2007 [2008], [label?]): Don't have a label for this. Don't know whether what I have is an advance or final copy: it's in a printed sleeve, which some larger labels like Palmetto do for advances, but I doubt that a self-released one-shot would go to the trouble. Piano trio, with Domnarski on piano, John Davis on bass, Dave Mason on drums. Second album by Domnarski, who attended Skidmore College and moved to New York in 2004, and that's pretty much all I know. Seven originals plus a cover of David Bowie's "Life on Mars." Reminds me a wee bit of rockish jazz pianists like Esbjörn Svensson and Neil Cowley, but doesn't connect often enough. B
  • Armen Donelian Trio: Oasis (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): Nice piano trio. Donalian's basic trick is to repeat a rhythm figure and play off against it -- "Sunrise, Sunset" is a good example, but not the only one here. Doesn't move far or hard from that model, which is one reason this never takes off. B+(**)
  • Mark Dresser/Ed Harkins/Steven Schick: House of Mirrors (2006 [2008], Clean Feed): Bassist Dresser is by far the best known of the three, but Harkins, who plays various trumpets and mellophone, is co-author of the eight pieces. Harkins has a previous album on Vinny Golia's 9 Winds label, although may far understate his experience. Schick plays "multiple percussion." Trumpet always appears somewhat muddled here, never bright or brassy. One result is that the record has little sonic presence. Knowing Dresser, that's probably not the only one. B
  • Echoes of Swing: 4 Jokers in the Pack (2006 [2008], Echoes of Swing): German group, mostly. Colin Dawson (from England) plays trumpet and sings two pieces -- doesn't sound like much of a voice at first, but grows on you. Chris Hopkins (born in US, but lived most of his life in Germany) plays alto sax. I've run across him previously as a stride pianist -- good time to put in a plug for his duet album with Dick Hyman, Teddy Wilson in 4 Hands, which I shorted as a very high HM -- but he's moved over to make room for pianist Bernd Lhotzky (born in Germany, listed here as D/F). The notes credit Lhotzky with his own "critically acclaimed" piano duet, with Ralph Sutton in 1997; haven't heard it, but his 2006 Arbors album, Piano Portrait, is a respectable-plus outing. The drummer is Oliver Mewes (just D). Group has been together ten years, with three previous quartet albums, plus one by an expanded Echoes of Swing Orchestra. A couple of originals fit in with the archival projects, which are rarely obvious. B+(*)
  • Harris Eisenstadt: Guewel (2008, Clean Feed): Wound up playing this four times straight -- a combination of distractions and indecisiveness that effectively constitutes a productivity breakdown. Had I not done so I would have missed much of what is here, since this record is not only not what it claims to be -- a celebration of Senegalese pop music, based on songs from Orchestra Baobab, Super Diamono, Star Number One, and others -- it also doesn't fit any other recognizable niche. The closest I can think of is amateur brass band music, played not for laughs but at least in good humor. Eisenstadt was born 1975 in Toronto; is now based in Brooklyn; plays drums; records on avant-garde labels, with several interesting albums to his credit, including a previous afropop excursion, Jalolu. As a drummer, you'd expect him to try to make more of African rhythms, but they play no real role here. He backs up four hornsmen: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Nate Wooley (trumpet), Mark Taylor (french horn), and Josh Sinton (baritone sax). They poke and jab, fill and counter, nothing much that stands out as a solo. More like they're dallying around until the murky context emerges, which in time it sort of does. B+(**)
  • Karen Emerson: From the Depths (2007-08 [2008], Daring Kittens): Singer, first album. Has an arresting voice and interesting phrasing on bopwise material; less so on the Brazilian songs that make up nearly half of this -- presumably those recorded with Jovino Santos Neto. The problem is less that the two halves are at odds than that a handful of awkward spots gum up the works. Otherwise, she could develop into a striking vocalist. B
  • Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961 [2008], Riverside/Keepnews Collection): Always a subtle pianist, sneaking about here as bassist Scott LaFaro frequently leads and drummer Paul Motian invents his off-centric drumming; LaFaro died in a car crash ten days later, his legendary status secured this weekend, which also yielded Waltz for Debby, this record's only rival for the highpoint of Evans' career. A
  • Cynthia Felton: Afro Blue: The Music of Oscar Brown Jr. (2008, Felton Entertainment): Young singer, certified with: bachelor of music from Berklee, master of arts in jazz performance from New York University, doctorate in jazz studies from University of Southern California. Based in Los Angeles. First album. Long list of musicians includes Ernie Watts, Jeff Clayton, Wallace Roney, Cyrus Chestnut, Donald Brown, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Terri Lyne Carrington; also uses vibes, harp, and violin. Bookends 12 Oscar Brown Jr. songs with two short takes of "Motherless Child." I don't think the album works. It has something to do with the chemistry between singer, song, and band, but I haven't isolated just what it is. Brown was a unique case: he followed up on the basic vocalese idea but mostly aimed at writing novelty songs, which were inevitably hit-and-miss and often even when they worked didn't fit together, novelties being what they are. Perhaps the songs can't support this much seriousness. B-
  • Amina Figarova: Above the Clouds (2008, Munich): Pianist, b. 1966 in Baku, Soviet Union, now Azerbaijan; based in the Netherlands. Has at least nine albums since 1995, focusing more on her compositions than her piano. I figure this as postbop, probably with some "third stream" elements -- in any case, a mixed bag, with a lot of horns, some pleasant, promising arrangements. Probably deserves further research, but hasn't motivated me yet. B
  • Five Play: What the World Needs Now (2007 [2008], Arbors): Drummer Sherrie Maricle's small band, a quintet, contrasts with her big band, DIVA Jazz Orchestra. Both groups are all-female, more/less swing oriented. (DIVA's latest album was a Tommy Newsom tribute.) The Burt Bacharach title cut is a bit yucky but helplessly catchy. Other songs include "Slipped Disc" (Benny Goodman), "Jo-House Blues" (Toshiko Akiyoshi), "I Am Woman" (Helen Reddy). Musicians are: Jami Dauber (trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet), Janelle Reichman (tenor sax, clarinet), Tomoko Ohno (piano), Noriko Ueda (bass). The piano shines in solo spaces, the rhythm section swings, and the horns take some chances. B+(*)
  • Carlos Franzetti: Film Noir (2008, Sunnyside): Argentine pianist, arranger, composer, b. 1948, moved to Mexico in 1970, US in 1974, now based in New Jersey. More than a dozen albums since 1995, with classical music and soundtracks outnumbering jazz titles. Looks like Franzetti only wrote one piece here: "Tango Fatal." The others are fairly obvious, ranging from "Body Heat" to "A Place in the Sun" to "Alfie." Andy Fusco gets a "featuring" credit, bringing his alto sax front and center. Piano-bass-drums are also credited, but the bulk of the sound belongs to the City of Prague Philharmonic, whose cheap, lush strings are a plague on the jazz world. As these things go, super-romantic, lustrous even. Gag me. C
  • Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Heat Wave (2008, Not Two): A possible problem with recording so often is that so full of your typical moves seems somewhat ordinary. Fujii is dramatic as usual; Natsuki Tamura is a little on the rough side, so he almost matches her for once. Quartet includes Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass, Akira Horikoshi on drums. Unlike previous all-Japanese quartets, they show no special fondness for rock rhythms, so this is kept roughly free. Don't have a lot of details to go on, not least because the gray-on-black print is illegible. Much of this would be very impressive in a blindfold context, but I can point to other albums equal or better. B+(**)
  • Renaud Garcia-Fons Trio: Arcoluz (2005 [2008], Enja/Justin Time, CD+DVD): French bassist, b. 1962, uses an unusual 5-string double bass, has a technique of tapping strings with the bow. The fifth string gives him something like cello range. Trio includes Kiko Ruiz on "flamenco guitar" and Negrito Transante on drums/percussion. Music draws on flamenco, and reminded me more than a bit of tango. Garcia-Fons has six albums on Enja, at least two picked up by Justin Time. DVD adds visuals to the same concert. I played it but didn't watch much. B+(**)
  • Mike Garson: Conversations With My Family (2006 [2008], Resonance, CD+DVD): No recording date for the CD, but the DVD was shot May 7, 2006. Presumably there's some relationship, but once again I didn't bother with the DVD. Garson rings a bell. At the time I first heard it, I thought his piano solo in David Bowie's "Aladdin Sane" was one of the most magnificent things I had ever heard. Other than that I hadn't noticed him much. Turns out that before Bowie he started out with Annette Peacock. He has a dozen or so albums, starting with 1979's Avant Garson. This has a lot of quasi-classical flourishes, especially when accented by Christian Howes' violin -- three cuts, but I could have sworn there were more strings. Claudio Roditti plays trumpet and/or flugelhorn on two cuts; Lori Bell flute on one; Andreas Öberg adds guitar on two. The titles are connected with short interludes, another classical-ish touch. And the piano is rich and florid -- not something I tend to like, but here I rather do. B+(*)
  • Gilfema: Gilfema + 2 (2008, ObliqSound): Benin native Lionel Loueke sets the tone and style here, mostly because he sings as well as plays guitar, which far outweighs Ferenc Nemeth's drums and Massimo Biolcati's bass, even though the latter write equal shares of the music. Loueke straddles jazz and Afropop without really seeming to belong to either, but he does have a distinctive sweet-and-slick guitar sound and some real talent. The "+2" help, too: Anat Cohen on clarinet, and John Ellis on bass clarinet -- best thing here is when they pick up a groove and run with it. B+(**)
  • Marshall Gilkes: Lost Words (2007 [2008], Alternate Side): Trombonist, b. 1978 in Maryland, father was "a musician in the Air Force" -- reminds me of the Robert Sherrill book, Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music -- based in Brooklyn; studied with Conrad Herwig and Wycliffe Gordon; plays with Maria Schneider and David Berger. Second album; wrote all the pieces. Quinet with Michael Rodriguez on trumpet/flugelhorn, Jon Cowherd on piano. Postbop, little bit of everything here, sounding promising then wandering off into something else, also sounding promising. B+(*)
  • Dizzy Gillespie Big Band: Showtime at the Spotlite (1946 [2008], Uptown, 2CD): Diz came up in big bands and preferred them well into the 1950s, but this is mostly a historical curiosity, predating his Latin binge with Chano Pozo, with raw audio roughing up sometimes spectacular solos. Band members include Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Kenny Clarke. Sarah Vaughan drops in for a cameo. Second disc tails off at 37:04. B
  • Marcus Goldhaber: Take Me Anywhere (2007 [2008], Fallen Apple): Vocalist, b. 1978, "a suburban kid in Buffalo, NY"; second album. Has a high, thin voice much like Theo Bleckmann's, but tastes less esoteric, fancying himself as a crooner, with Chet Baker to fall back on -- compare "I Fall in Love Too Easily," which he sings better than Baker, without making the difference matter. Backed by the Jon Davis Trio -- Davis on piano -- with Hendrik Meurkens providing a guest harmonica spot. Long: 17 cuts, 75:11. I can imagine some people falling in love with it, but I can't imagine me ever giving it the time. B
  • Brad Goode: Polytonal Dance Party (2008, Origin): Trumpet player, b. 1963, from Chicago, lists Cat Anderson among his teachers; currently teaches in Colorado. Seventh album since Shock of the New in 1988 -- haven't heard his debut, but what I have heard suggests more of a postbop/hardbop player. This quintet is a bit of a change, with some electronics, the emphasis on groove. Bill Kopper plays guitar/sitar, Jeff Jenkins piano and other keyboards. Better realized than, say, Nicholas Payton's or Wallace Roney's jazztronica dabblings, partly because it's less ambitious. B+(*)
  • Danny Green: With You in Mind (2008 [2009], Alante): Pianist, from San Diego, studied at UCSD. First album. Has an interest in Brazil, including studies with Jovino Santos Neto. Hype sheet says "File under Jazz, Latin Jazz, Brazilian," but this doesn't sound particularly Latin or Brazilian to me -- perhaps a little more consistently grooveful than most postbop. Green plays some Rhodes and melodica as well as piano. Much of this is trio, but there's extra percussion by Allan Phillips and soprano sax by Tripp Sprague. B+(*)
  • Marco Granados: Music of Venezuela (2008, Soundbrush): Venezuelan flautist, fronting a group with cuatro, bass, and maracas, with occasional guests -- two tracks with Francisco Flores on trumpet raise the bar. Lively, bouncy stuff, played at bebop speeds -- reminds me of Sam Most more than of any Latins who come to mind, lighter and more bubbly than Dave Valentin. I like it about as much as I could imagine liking it. B
  • Doug Hamilton: Jazz Band (2007 [2008], OA2): Toronto big band, together since 1993. Hamilton is a trombonist, but doesn't play in the band. Didn't find much on him: common name, lots of false leads. Hamilton and Mark Taylor produced. Taylor's background is "ex-U.S. Army chief arranger for the Army Blues." Ten members: three reeds, three brass, guitar, piano, bass, two drummers. Drummer Steve Fidyk is the only one I recognize. Jim Roberts' guitar stands out in the mix. Nice, professional job. B
  • Lionel Hampton Orchestra: Mustermesse Basel 1953 Part 2 (1953 [2008], TCB): Another Swiss radio shot, with the vibraphonist's big band -- names include Art Farmer, Clifford Brown, Jimmy Cleveland, Gigi Gryce, and Quincy Jones -- doing their usual "Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop": "Setting the Pace," "Flying Home," "Drinking Wine," always "On the Sunny Side of the Street." B+(*)
  • Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid: NYC (2008, Domino): More laptop-centric, more of a lead instrument in any case, the previous albums credited to Reid first, perhaps in deference to the elder collaborator, maybe because at first this seemed like a sidebar to Hebden's Four Tet brand. They now have five records together, which is most of Hebden's output over the last 3 years. Doesn't swing a bit, which may be its shortcoming for jazz ears. Seems to me like one of the things to come, although not the most impressive of examples. B+(**)
  • Dan Heck: Compositionality (2007 [2008], Origin): Guitarist, graduated from Berklee, was in Seattle for a while with a band called Bebop & Destruction; now based in South Florida. First album, calling out trumpeter Thomas Marriott for a featuring role. Nice, tasty postbop, with the guitar rolling gently off the trumpet leads. B+(*)
  • Todd Herbert: The Tree of Life (2007 [2008], Metropolitan): Tenor saxophonist, Flash-only website and not much else, so I'm short on background. Mainstream player -- label website says he "takes John Coltrane as a point of departure" but he sounds more like Dexter Gordon to me. Leads a quartet with Anthony Wonsey (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass), Jason Brown (drums) -- Wonsey gets a lot of space and makes good use of it. First album was pretty good, and this one is better. B+(**)
  • The Here & Now: Break of Day (2007 [2008], OA2): Quintet, with Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet), Ben Roseth (sax), Drew Pierson (piano), David Dawda (bass), Sean Hutchinson (drums). I gather they grew up together in Seattle but are now based in New York. First album. All but Pierson contribute songs. Figure them for postbop -- neither retro hard bop nor avant-garde, but somewhere near the cutting of jazz convention. B+(*)
  • Michael Higgins: The Moon and the Lady Dancing (2007 [2009], Michael Higgins Music): Guitarist. Cites Joe Pass, Joe Diorio, Barney Kessel, and others as influences. Second album, a trio with bassist Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum. Very pleasant record. B+(*)
  • Warren Hill: La Dolce Vita (2008, Koch): Pop jazz saxophonist, plays alto mostly, also soprano. Has ten or so albums since 1991. Plays alto with some authority. Hill also programs drum lines, plays some keyboards, and sings two cuts. The vocals are a waste, and the grooves are standard issue, bright and bouncy. B-
  • Dave Holland Sextet: Pass It On (2007 [2008], Dare2/Emarcy): One of the great bass players of the last 30-40 years. Started in the avant-garde; emerged around the turn of the century as the hands-down winner of mainstream polls like Downbeat's -- I guess we can credit ECM for taming him. State of the art postbop, synthesizing most of jazz history into an aggregate stew that neither offers anything startlingly new or tastefully old. Holland's recent quintets have had a remarkable balance of forces, with trombone (Robin Eubanks) and vibes (Steve Nelson) prominent, and no less saxophonist than Chris Potter. Eubanks looms large here, but Antonio Hart and Alex Sipiagin aren't in Potter's class; Junior Mance does a solid job on piano, but he's less distinctive than Nelson. Not a bad record; just not a very interesing one. B+(*)
  • Shirley Horn: Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival (1994 [2008], Monterey Jazz Festival): Very cost-effective: a singer with such voice and poise a piano trio suits her best, plus she plays a pretty mean piano; just turned 60, at the peak of her fame coming off a series of well-regarded albums on Verve, she nails her whole range here -- "The Look of Love," "A Song for You," "I've Got the World on a String," "Hard Hearted Hannah." B+(***)
  • Toninho Horta: To Jobim With Love (2008, Resonance): Banner across the bottom identifies this as belonging to an "Heirloom Series." No recording date, but it's pitched as a 50th anniversary celebration of bossa nova -- seems likely to be new. Horta plays guitar and sings -- make that, plays guitar much better than he sings. He takes nine songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, adds three of his own, plus a stray by Paulo Horta and Donato Donatti, and gives them what must pass among the nouveaux riches as the luxury treatment. The results are very mixed: wonderful, awful, permutations thereof. The band is ridiculously large, with some prominent yanks -- Dave Kikoski (piano), Bob Mintzer (tenor sax), Gary Peacock (acoustic bass), John Clark (French horn), Charles Pillow (oboe) -- mixed in with comparable Brazilians like Paulo Braga and Manolo Badrena and bunches of folks I've never heard of, many surnamed Horta -- the five flutes give you an idea. Then there's the 22-piece string section, a surefire recipe for seasickness. And the backing vocals, another dozen. Gal Costa even drops in for three cuts. Still, it can be very nice when they keep it simple, especially when the tune is as irresistible as "Desafinado." B-
  • Hot Club de Norvege: Django Music (2007 [2008], Hot Club): Norwegian quartet, patterned on Django Reinhardt's Hot Club de Paris, with Jon Larsen on and Per Frydenlund on guitar, Finn Hauge on violin and harmonica, Svein Aarbostad on bass. Group formed in 1979 with Larsen and Aarbostad; Hauge joined in 1985. Don't know how many records -- a dozen or more -- or what they sound like. This is fairly genteel, rather sweet string music, with three trad pieces, four from Reinhardt, a couple of originals, "Coquette," and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." Hauge sings "I Can't Give You (Anything but Love)" to open. B+(*)
  • Christian Howes: Heartfelt (2008, Resonance): Violinist, b. 1972, Columbus, OH; now based in New York. Fourth album since 1997. Small print notes: featuring Roger Kellaway. Stick describes this as "beautiful, romantic jazz," and that does seem to be what he's aiming for. When he adds viola things can get icky, as on the first two cuts. Elsewhere he shows a Grappelli influence, and pianist Kellaway earns his keep. Bennie Goodman's "Opus Half" is relatively choice. B
  • Aaron Irwin Group: Blood and Thunder (2008, Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, has a previous FSNT album. This is a sextet, with Chris Cheek on tenor sax, Ben Monder on guitar, and Eliza Cho on violin. Postbop, almost orchestral, with the two saxes complementing each other nicely -- long, intricate stretches come off as quite lovely. B+(**)
  • Anne Mette Iversen: Best of the West + Many Places (2006-07 [2008], Bju'ecords, 2CD): Bassist-composer, expansive set of postbop chamber jazz, rounded out with a string quartet on the first disc. Not bad as such things go. Second disc is just quartet, which gives saxophonist John Ellis more elbow room. B+(**)
  • Javon Jackson: Once Upon a Melody (2008, Palmetto): Once a hard bop contender, lately a lamely confused funkateer, this splits the difference amiably enough that it's hard to get upset. "My One and Only Love" is downright lovely. "The In Crowd" isn't nearly out enough. The originals aren't as catchy as the covers, for better or worse. B
  • Willi Johanns: Scattin' (1987-2002 [2008], TCB): Singer, from Germany I take it, age 74 at some point in the liner notes; second album, following one in 1960 called A Salute to Birdland. Two sessions: an old one recorded in Italy in 1987 with Dusko Goykovich's Bebop City band -- five cuts at the end of the album; a more recent one with the RTS Big Band Radio Belgrade, a group that also featuring Goykovich on trumpet. "Satin Doll" and "Exactly Like You" show up in both sets. Title cut was written by Johanns and features a lot of scat. I find scat merely agreeable when done by someone exceptionally good at it, like Ella Fitzgerald; to be likable it needs to be done by someone with natural comic flair, like Louis Armstrong, Leo Watson, and Slim Gaillard -- the only names that come to mind. Johanns is a cut below both, but he's a very likable standards singer, and the bands -- especially the Belgrade big band -- swing hard and are sharp as tacks. B+(**)
  • Bujo Kevin Jones & Tenth World: Live! (2004 [2008], Motéma): Jones plays congas, djembe, percussion. Has one previous album, called Tenth World. Group includes Brian Horton (tenor sax), Kevin Louis (trumpet), Kelvin Sholar (piano), Joshua David (electric bass), and Jaimeo Brown (drums). Happy groove record with some Latin threads and occasionally unruly horns. Ends with "Watermelon Man," which is almost too easy. B+(**)
  • Justin Time Records 25th Anniversary Collection (1972-2007 [2008], Justin Time, 2CD): Canadian jazz label, with some folk, blues, and world overtones. Got into the business in 1983 with pianist Oliver Jones; has a long list of jazz singers, including the discovery of Diana Krall, and steady work by Jeri Brown and Susie Arioli; scored their biggest coup in landing David Murray in 1996, who led them to Billy Bang, D.D. Jackson, and Hugh Ragin. Sidelines not documented here include their Just A Memory archival series and reissues from Enja's catalog. All this adds up to an eclectic sampler, with high points from great albums and filler from weaker ones, unnecessary except to draw attention to a label that's long been worth following. B
  • Ron Kalina and Jim Self: The Odd Couple (2006-07 [2008], Basset Hound): Kalina plays chromatic harmonica. Doesn't seem to have much of a discography or history, but he looks rather gray. Self plays tuba. He's been around a long time, with credits going back to 1976 and seven or more albums since 1992. The group is rounded out capably by Larry Koonse (guitar), Tom Warrington (bass), and Joe La Barbera (drums). They play a couple of originals, some standards, two Charlie Parker tunes, the Neal Hefti-composed title TV theme. They make an odd buzz, and swing a little. B+(*)
  • Kassaba: Dark Eye (2007, CDBaby): Cleveland group, sax-piano-bass-percussion, with two pianists and no full time percussionist -- just a collection of "25 exotic percussion instruments" that everyone, especially the odd pianist out, takes part in. They claim inspiration from jazz, classical, and world; classical shows up mostly in the piano, world in the percussion, perhaps a bit too obviously, but it comes together in dark, complex, highly flavored groove pieces. B+(**)
  • Roger Kellaway: Live at the Jazz Standard (2006 [2008], IPO, 2CD): Veteran pianist, b. 1939, introduced himself in the early 1960s, has recorded not all that frequently over the following 40 years. I'm way down on the learning curve on him: seems like a subtle, clever player, hard to pin down as anything more specific than postbop. Has mostly recorded in small configurations -- trios, duos, solo -- and I find him most effective here when it's just him and bassist Jay Leonhart. The three other players here come and go. Russell Malone plays some tasty guitar solos, but they seem to be on a different level. Stefon Harris plays vibes. I've never found him enjoyable or interesting, and this keeps his streak intact. And I have no idea what to make of Borislav Strulev's cello. Doesn't help that the album is so reserved you have to reach hard to hear it all. Or that there's no drummer. Or that it's a double. B
  • Rebecca Kilgore/Dave Frishberg: Why Fight the Feeling? The Songs of Frank Loesser (2008, Arbors): Kilgore is the singer here; Frishberg accompanies on piano, but doesn't sing. Kilgore b. 1948 in Waltham, MA; moved to Portland, OR, where c. 1980 she started a career in swing standards. Has more than a dozen albums, plus dozens of side appearances, especially with John Sheridan's Dream Band. She recently sang Loesser on Harry Allen's Guys and Dolls. Nice voice, nothing idiosyncratic or forced, the sort of singer you can always enjoy, even with minimal accompaniment, such as here. B+(**)
  • Barbara King: Perfect Timing (2008, CCC Music Group): Vocalist, from Brooklyn, voice described as "Sarah Vaughan-like," which gives you the general idea: deep, dusky, but despite the title, she doesn't quite have the moves down pat. No recording date(s), with a lot of musicians shuffling in and out, not making much difference. Song selection is an issue. She manages to make something out of "Let It Be," but "Forever Young" is beyond redemption. B
  • The Klez Dispensers: Say You'll Understand (2008, TKD): Klezmer group, natch; second album, following 2004's New Jersey Freylekhs. I first ran across them on the resume of alto saxophonist Alex Kontorovich, whose Deep Minor showed up in a recent Jazz CG. He mostly plays clarinet here, doesn't appear to be a central figure -- like pianist Adrian Banner, with most of the "Arr." credits, or vocalist Susan Watts, who also plays a little trumpet -- but he's certainly an asset. They play the music for laughs, as well as for sadness. One idiosyncrasy is how they transliterate the Yiddish -- "Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn" vs. the proper German "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" -- but it's still Yiddish, still part of an old world/new world axis that bypasses Israel. And the new world wins out in the "Ray Charleston." B+(**)
  • Kopacoustic: Music From the KopaFestival 2006 Volume 1 (2006 [2007], Kopasetic): The first of two samplers from a Swedish jazz festival, held Sept. 21-22, 2006, in Malmö, sorted not strictly by acoustic vs. electric so much as by guitar volume -- all six groups have guitarists, a sure sign of the times. First up here is Krister Jonsson Trio (Jonsson, guitar; Nils Davidsen, electric bass, Peter Danemo, drums) + Svante Henryson (cello): 4 cuts, 29:08. Then Footloose (Mats Holtne, guitar; Mattias Hjorth, bass, Peter Nilsson, drums) + Lotte Anker (alto sax) & Andreas Andersson (soprano/baritone sax): 1 cut, 18:05. Finally, Cennet Jönsson Quartet (Jönsson, soprano/tenor sax; Krister Jonsson; Mattias Hjorth; Peter Nilsson) + David Liebman (soprano sax, flute). Loose, attractive free jazz, guitar-driven, with cello or light sax to soothe things out. B+(**)
  • Kopalectric: Music From the KopaFestival 2006 Volume 2 (2006 [2007], Kopasetic): More guitar-driven free jazz, cranked up a notch for Lim + Marc Ducret (3 cuts, 31:01) and Elektra Hyde (1 cut, 10:36), and a couple more for Anders Nilsson's Aorta (1 cut, 20:59, called "Riding the Maelström"). B+(**)
  • Deborah Latz: Lifeline (2008, June Moon Productions): Vocalist, has one previous release. Sings standards, a couple (not just "La Vie en Rose") in French, grabbing "Arr." credits on most of them. Backed by a good piano trio (Daniela Schächter on piano, Bob Bowen on bass, Elisabeth Keledjian on drums), blessed with "special guest" Joel Frahm's tenor sax here and there. B+(**)
  • Jo Lawry: I Want to Be Happy (2008, Fleurieu Music): Vocalist, from Australia, based in New York. First record, with Keith Sanz on guitar, James Shipp on vibes and marimba, Matt Clohesy on bass, Ferenc Nemeth on drums, extra piano and accordion, generally helpful. She works hard at personalizing standard songs, bending notes into odd shapes, slipping into scat. Some of my favorite songs here, struggling to peak through. I can't say that she ruins them, but the idiosyncrasies strike me as gratuitous. To pick one example, Tierney Sutton may not be a superior singer, but I much prefer her straightforward version of the title track. B-
  • Tom Lellis/Toninho Horta: Tonight (2008, Adventure Music): Lellis is one of those male vocalists who always seem to annoy me, but he comes off quaint and not without charm on this slow, dainty program that breaks two-to-one sweet standards over samba fluff. He also plays piano, quaintly, and gets a credit for shaker that I'm afraid I didn't catch. Horta is a guitarist from Brazil, who sets the speed and sugar quotient, and sings some too, also managing to sound quaint. B-
  • The David Leonhardt Trio: Explorations (2008, Big Bang): Pianist, from Louisville, spent time in New York, based now in Easton, PA. Claims 35 years experience; has 12 self-released records out since 1991, including Jazz for Kids and an Xmas album. This is a trio with Matthew Parrish on bass, Alvester Garnett on drums. Half originals, half covers: four rock songs from the late '60s (or maybe 1970), one each from Jerome Kern and Horace Silver. The rockers, especially "Sunshine of Your Love," come off like crufty old metal, loud and clunky. The originals don't offer a lot more. B
  • Joe Locke: Force of Four (2008, Origin): Quartet, the vibraphonist joined by Robert Rodriguez on piano, Ricardo Rodriguez on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums. Robert Rodriguez has recorded with trumpeter Michael Rodriguez as the Rodriguez Brothers. Ricardo also seems to be a brother, but doesn't get much credit on the group's website. Three cuts add a horn: one with Thomas Marriott on trumpet, two with Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax. Neither the pianist nor the horns have much impact, but Locke continues to play remarkably. B+(*)
  • Ava Logan: So Many Stars (2006-07 [2008], Diva Vet Music): Standards singer, originally from DC, now based in Chicago. First album. Most female singers don't readily disclose their ages, so I'll risk a guess and say that she's in her 50s. Strong, attractive voice. Does a nice job on everything here, especially "Day In Day Out" and "Detour Ahead." Backed by piano trio plus guitar. No doubt she deserves a break, but probably won't get one. B
  • Lionel Loueke: Karibu (2007 [2008], Blue Note): Young guitarist from Benin, via Côte d'Ivoire, Paris, and Boston, developed a high profile as a sideman, and a very scattered major label debut. The occasional vocals aren't a plus. The African grooves are hard to pin down -- the attractive "Nonvignon" could be pennywhistle. Two pieces with Herbie Hancock are surprisingly abstract, especially "Light Dark," where Wayne Shorter joins in. Shorter also plays on "Naima." B+(*)
  • Joe Lovano: Symphonica (2005 [2008], Blue Note): You can probably figure this out by the title. If not, note that while the WDR Big Band is a crack jazz outfit which works cheap and occasionally pays dividends, the Rundfunk Orchester is a classical outfit distinguished primarily by its massed strings. The saxophonist is often magnificent, the effect heightened by the swirling sea of indistinct sounds all around him. The latter at least don't induce nausea, small comfort for symphonyphobes. B+(**)
  • Tony Malaby Cello Trio: Warblepeck (2008, Songlines): Saxophonists are natural leaders, even when they don't write much, just due to the dominant nature of their instrument. Malaby is one of the few -- Eric Dolphy is the only other one who comes to mind -- who has built a sterling reputation mostly on other people's albums, so when he does release one it's something of an event. The cello here is Fred Lonberg-Holm, lately resident in the Vandermark 5. The third wheel is percussionist John Hollenbeck. This doesn't mesh as well as I'd like, the cello often more trouble than it's worth. Also hard to zone in on Lonberg-Holm's electronics, although they may be confused with Hollenbeck's panoply of percusion instruments (credits include "small kitchen appliances"). Malaby is first rate, as usual. B+(*)
  • Rebecca Martin: The Growing Season (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): Singer-songwriter, classified as a jazz singer based on her labels, but the thin voice, light guitar, straightforward songs, and primitive arrangements all better fit the folk genre. Band here has impeccable jazz credentials -- Kurt Rosenwinkel, Larry Grenadier, Brian Blade -- but don't really do much. B
  • Marc McDonald: It Doesn't End Here (2007 [2008], No End in Sight): Alto saxophonist, b. 1961, London, UK; has "led groups for over 25 years in the New York/New Jersey area and such cities as Honolulu, London and Athens." First album, although he has a side credit from 1986, and a few more from 1998 on. Wrote 8 of 11 pieces, covering "Night and Day," "This Heart of Mine," and "Blue Skies." Piano-bass-drums quartet, with guitarist Steve Cardenas guesting on 5 cuts. Very mainstream. I wondered at first why he would bother, but it's clearly for the sheer beauty of the music. B+(**)
  • Carmen McRae: Live at the Flamingo Jazz Club London May 1961 (1961 [2008], Acrobat): Barely accompanied by Don Abney's piano trio, eleven standards from "I Could Write a Book" to "They Can't Take That Away From Me," including obvious stops like "Stardust" and "Body and Soul" and the local nod "A Foggy Day (in London Town)," given readings at once textbook proper and delectable. B+(*)
  • Memorize the Sky: In Former Times (2007 [2008], Clean Feed): Subtitle: Live at Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon. Group includes Matt Bauder (tenor sax, clarinet), Zach Wallace (bass), Aaron Siegel (drums). Another group name that came out of a former album title. Group met in Ann Arbor. Bauder, at least, is now based in New York, but seems to have passed through Chicago, and took a detour to work with Anthony Braxton. Despite the lack of credits, this sounds like electronic music: clicks, drones, ambient abstractions. B+(*)
  • Vince Mendoza: Blauklang (2007 [2008], ACT): Mostly a composer-arranger, no playing credit here. Fifth album since 1990, first since 1999. The bulk of the album is the six movement "Blue Sounds," which closes the disc after five pieces -- two originals, one traditional, one each from Miles Davis and Gil Evans. The record bears the WDR/The Cologne Broadcasts logo, drawing on the Westdeutschen Rundfunks Köln big band, with a few ringers thrown in: Nguyên Lê on guitar, Markus Stockhausen on trumpet, Lars Danielsson on bass, Peter Erskine on drums. So, basically, a big band, plus strings (String Quarter Red URG 4). Has some nice moments, but runs too close to classical for my taste. B-
  • Metheny Mehldau Quartet (2005 [2007], Nonesuch): Mehldau's trio, with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard having replaced Jorge Rossy on drums, plus Metheny, who leans on his lyrical side. Support is admirable, of course. I could see other folks liking this a lot, but I just don't have much to say about it. B+(**)
  • Mike & the Ravens: Noisy Boys! The Saxony Sessions (2006-07 [2008], Zoho Roots): Rock band, led by vocalist Mike Brassard. Group originally formed in 1962, but this, with same original members, is their first album. Rocks OK, with a large blues component. Sounds more advanced than 1962. More like 1968. In fact, sounds an awful lot like Steppenwolf. B
  • Jason Miles: 2 Grover With Love (2008, Koch): Keyboard guy, producer skills. Miles has been making the rounds with tributes to anyone he thinks he can cash in on, so it's not a big surprise that he would zero in on Grover Washington, Jr. Washington actually had a very sweet way with his saxophones, a skill that is shared by none of the guests brought in to dress this pig up (Andy Snitzer, Jay Beckenstein, Najee, Kim Waters). Miles himself is agreeably funky. Maysa sings "Mr. Magic," a low point. B-
  • Steve Million: Remembering the Way Home (2008, Origin): Pianist, based in Chicago since 1988, fifth album since 1995. Solo piano, elegant, thoughtful. B+(*)
  • Jessica Molaskey: A Kiss to Build a Dream On (2008, Arbors): Singer, married to John Pizzarelli, who duets on two songs and plays some guitar; daughter-in-law to Bucky Pizzarelli, who plays even more guitar; also inlaw to bassist Martin Pizzarelli. Unrelated Aaron Weinstein plays fiddle; still very young, he's the obvious pick for anyone looking for the spirit of Messrs. Grappelli and Venuti. Cute songs, cute voice, plucky strings. B
  • Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Himself (1957 [2008], Riverside/Keepnews Collection): Solo piano, excepting one anomalous take of "Monk's Mood" with John Coltrane and Wilbur Ware. Covers like "April in Paris" and "A Ghost of a Chance" are carefully dissected to reveal odd tangents, but the process is so slow and painstaking it's hard maintain interest. B
  • Bill Moring & Way Out East: Spaces in Time (2007 [2008], Owl Studios): Bassist-led "collective group" -- second album, not counting the one Moring did with a Way Out West group. Post-hard bop, with Jack Walrath on trumpet, Tim Armacost on sax, Steve Allee on keyboard, Steve Johns on drums, all but Allee contributing a song or two -- Ornette Coleman is the only cover. Especially good to hear Walrath, who hasn't recorded much lately. B+(*)
  • Joe Morris/Barre Phillips: Elm City Duets (2006 [2008], Clean Feed): Guitar-bass duets, or at least that's how Morris's credit leads. Morris has been playing about as much bass over the last 3-4 years as he has guitar, and Phillips has recorded bass duets before -- he was the other half of Dave Holland's Music for Two Basses -- so that's what I sort of expected. It's kind of hard to say what this sounds like: very abstract, little flow let alone groove, stretches of near silence and not much you'd call noise. If I had to, I'd try it again with more volume, but even if that worked -- which with these two must be the case -- few people would find this sort of thing interesting. B-
  • Motel: Lost and Found (2007, MGM): All music by DC bassist Matt Grason, excepting a Herbie Hancock piece. Don't know much about him, but he's put together a jazz-hip-hop mash-up that stands on both legs. The Feat. rappers do business as: Priest Da Nomad, Cool Cee Brown, Sub Z, Kokayi, John Moon, Yu, and Hueman Prophets. Local DC talent, came out of Tony Blackman's Freestyle Union. The band are NYC jazzbos -- the two names I recognize are guitarist Jostein Gulbrandson and saxophonist Jon Irabagon, both stand up and out here, more than filling the breaks between the raps. Rhythmically, by hip-hop standards this seems lax -- even Nicholas Payton and Wallace Roney have employed turntablists and samplers. Sure, not very well, the point being that there's some precedent for exploring that angle. B+(**)
  • Jovino Santos Neto & Weber Iago: Live at Caramoor (2007 [2008], Adventure Music): Two Brazilian pianists square off for duets or competing solos. I've always preferred the upbeat, sometimes funky, Neto over the more meditative, often classical-aspiring, Iago, but I can't swear to who plays what here. Iago offers three originals; Neto one. The balance, aside from "Alone Together," are Brazilian standards, with Jobim twice. Special bonus is Joe Lovano's soprano sax on "Wave." B
  • New Guitar Summit: Shivers (2008, Stony Plain): Three guitarists, none of whom strike me as new or novel or whatever the implication is: Gerry Beaudoin, Jay Geils, Duke Robillard. Actually, a fourth dinosaur shows up for two cuts: Randy Bachman, sings too. They work around bass and drums. Sweet sound. Not much action. B
  • Fredrik Nordström Quintet: Live in Coimbra (2005 [2008], Clean Feed): Swedish tenor saxophonist, b. 1974. (Wikipedia lists a different Fredrik Nordström, b. 1967, a record producer.) Eight albums under his name, plus a couple more as Surd and Dog Out. Plays free, but doesn't make a big impression. Quintet features Mats Aleklint on trombone and Mattias Ståhl on vibraphone, both notable here. B+(*)
  • The Phil Norman Tentet: "Totally" Live at Catalina Jazz Club: In Memory of Bob Florence (2008, MAMA, 2CD): Recorded Jan. 15, 2008. Bob Florence, a big band arranger based in Los Angeles with numerous records on this label, died at age 76 on May 15, 2008. Don't know whether Florence was present here, or what the state of his health was at the time. He wrote and/or arranged several pieces here, but so did Kim Richmond and Scott Whitfield, who were also introduced. Tenor saxophonist Norman's group plays these pieces impeccably, including a sly "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and a lovely "Nature Boy." B+(**)
  • Andreas Öberg: My Favorite Guitars (2008, Resonance, CD+DVD): Swedish guitarist, b. 1978, based in Los Angeles; fourth album since 2004. Plays electric, acoustic, 6-string nylon. Two originals; ten covers, songs by other guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Toninho Horta, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, George Benson, Pat Metheny. One of those records that I put on, got distracted, didn't dislike what little I noticed, but didn't notice anything to make it seem worth another play. Didn't watch the DVD. B
  • Arturo O'Farrill & Claudia Acuña: In These Shoes (2008, Zoho): This pairs two well connected, highly touted, and as far as I've discerned until now vastly overrated artists. Still, the opening title track caught me by surprise, with a brassy vocal where Acuña has usually been coy, and a lot of drive from the band: choice cut. She rarely reverts to form here, not that we really need her takes on "Moodance" and "Willow Weep for Me." O'Farrill put together a pretty good band here, with Michael Mossman on trumpet, Yosvany Terry on alto/tenor sax, and some terrific Afro-Cuban percussion -- Dafnis Prieto and Pedrito Martinez. Sometimes they get ahead of the song, and sometimes I find myself not caring, but they certainly aren't faking it, or watering it down, or dressing it up for Lincoln Center. B+(*)
  • Judith Owen: Mopping Up Karma (2008, Courgette): British (or should I say Welsh?) singer-songwriter, with eight (or more) records since 1996. I don't hear her as a jazz singer, and don't find her very interesting as a rock or cabaret singer. At least this has fewer annoying vocal tics than the previous album I've heard (Happy This Way), and the strings and such are fairly inocuous. B-
  • Charlie Parker: Washington D.C., 1948 (1948 [2008], Uptown): Easily the most extensively documented jazz musician in history, with a smattering of legendary studio recordings and a huge number of more/less bootleg-quality live tapes, some no more than the alto sax solos cut out from the performance. Aficionados devour them all. I've never quite seen the point: even when Parker is at his most inspired, he adds little to what we already know from crisper sounding and better supported studio work. This new discovery starts with a very ordinary 7:39 bebop exercise led by Ben Lary and Charlie Walp, then spruces the group up by adding Parker and Buddy Rich, who both make a world of difference. Later the group drops down to a quartet, running through "Ornithology" and "KoKo," then they finish with a "Dixieland vs. Bebop" joust with Tony Parenti, Wild Bill Davison, and Benny Morton on "C Jam Blues." Nice solos by Rich and Parenti, and the aficionados won't be disappointed with Bird. B+(*)
  • Aaron Parks: Invisible Cinema (2008, Blue Note): Debut album, on a major label no less, sure to be overrated given Blue Note's track record in breaking major guitarists -- Robert Glasper is proof of how that works. This is more inside, mostly the piano chasing Mike Moreno's guitar, although one cut drops back to trio, two more to solo. I might be less skeptical if the latter were more interesting. But the interplay with Moreno is tight and thoroughly engaging. B+(**)
  • Bennett Paster & Gregory Ryan: Grupo Yanqui Rides Again (2006 [2008}, Miles High): Paster plays piano; Ryan bass. They met in 1993 as faculty members of the Stanford Jazz Workshop, found a common interest in Latin jazz, and put out their first Grupo Yanqui album in 2001. Current group is a NYC-based sextet, with trumpet (Alex Norris), sax (Chris Cheek), drums (Keith Hall), and percussion (Gilad). This makes all the basic moves, but little of special interest emerges. B
  • Nik Payton and Bob Wilber: Swinging the Changes (2007 [2008], Arbors): Payton plays tenor sax and clarinet. B. 1972, Birmingham, England; studied at Leeds College of Music, and perhaps more importantly under Wilber, who indulged his Sidney Bechet fetish. Payton was a founder of the Charleston Chasers, and has toured with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and what's left of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. One previous album, called In the Spirit of Swing. Lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which may have something to do with why there's a Jobim song here, but few albums lack one; in any case, this is pretty straight swing, the only unusual point the preponderance of originals -- 4 by Payton, 7 by Wilber. Group is Payton's "regular London quartet" -- Richard Buskiewicz (piano), Dave Green (bass), Steve Brown (drums). Wish I could say more, but every time I hear something exceptional here I convince myself that it's Wilber. B+(*)
  • Danilo Perez & Claus Ogerman: Across the Crystal Sea (2008, Emarcy): Front cover lists Perez alone at top, followed by the title, then in faint light blue over white: "Arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman." Spine credits both Perez and Ogerman. All but two song credits belong to Ogerman, although most are "after a theme by" things crediting Hugo Distler, Jean Sibelius, Manuel de Falla, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Jules Massenet. Perez's piano is featured, of course, but awash in a sea of Ogerman strings -- the sort of thing I can rarely stand, but this is uncloying and exceptionally pretty. Might benefit from further listening, but might as well turn sour, so consider this grade a bit more tentative (and polite) than usual. B+(*)
  • Anne Phillips: Ballet Time (2008, Conawago): Singer, definitely jazz, all the way down to writing vocalese lyrics -- her take on Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas" goes so far as to explain how she wound up writing a lyric to "Fried Bananas." Reportedly got her start "as a member of the Ray Charles Singers on the Perry Como Show." Cut an album in 1959 called "Born to Be Blue," then followed it up with a second album in 2001. This looks to be her third, not counting her choir arrangements for the Anne Phillips Singers. This one calls in a lot of chits, arranging 15 songs as duos with 15 musicians -- mostly pianists (notably Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland, Roger Kellaway), two guitarists (John Hart, Paul Meyers), two saxes (Scott Robinson on baritone, Bob Kindred on tenor), and Joe Locke on vibes. Two pianists sing duets: Bob Dorough and Matt Perri. Five songs have music or lyric (not both) by Phillips. The others lean on her guests, or the Gershwins. The minimal pairings and juxtapositions make for a very mixed bag -- tricks and oddities that never get a chance to jell into something genuinely idiosyncratic. B
  • The Pineapple Thief: Tightly Unwound (2008, K Scope): English ("Somerset-based") rock group, led by guitarist Bruce Soord, has half a dozen albums since 1999. Sounds a little like Jesus and Mary Chain minus the fuzz -- didn't catch any lyrics, so I can't speak to the gloom. Better than average for what they do, but no real business being here. B+(*)
  • Chico Pinheiro & Anthony Wilson: Nova (2008, Goat Hill): Brazilian guitar record: Pinheiro is the effective leader, the band is mostly Brazilian, and the guest stars include Ivan Lins and Dori Caymmi, adding vocals that I don't deem much of a plus. Wilson adds a second guitar, mostly electric to Pinheiro's mostly acoustic. A couple of duet pieces are intimate and comfy. Group pieces with piano, bass, drums, percussion, and sometimes horns, are more ordinary. B
  • Bucky Pizzarelli and Strings: So Hard to Forget (2008, Arbors): The strings are kept small, essentially a quartet -- Sara Caswell and Aaron Weinstein on violin, Valerie Levy on viola, Jesse Levy on cello -- plus bass (Martin Pizzarelli, Jerry Bruno), with Frank Vignola dropping in for a second guitar on 2 tracks. Nor are the strings very imposing: a lot of this sounds like solo guitar, with the strings occasionally adding dabs of background color. That's also the part that works best, which makes me wonder: why bother with the strings? Partly because it puts him into a delicately meditative mood, bringing out an aspect of his guitar playing we haven't hear much of lately. Partly because when it does work it can be sublime. B+(**)
  • Benny Powell: Nextep (2007 [2008], Origin): Trombonist, b. 1930 in New Orleans, came up through the Lionel Hampton and Count Basie bands. Has a lot of side credits, but very little under his own name -- this is the third title AMG lists. No special reason to credit, or blame, him for this one either. Most of the songs were written by saxophonist-flautist T.K. Blue or pianist Sayuri Goto, not exactly brand names. No complaints about the trombone, or drummer Billy Hart, but the rest tends to get soupy, especially when Blue plays flute. Ends on an up note, with a Blue calypso called "The Caribbean Express." B-
  • Andy Pratt: Masters of War (2008, It's About Music): Singer-songwriter, plays piano, cut his first record in 1969; had something of a breakthrough on his third album, Resolution, in 1976: Stephen Holden gave the record an incredible hype review in Rolling Stone. I got suckered into buying a copy; hated the overweening popcraft and sententious, witless songs. 32 years and maybe 15 albums later, he's still quoting Holden's review. I haven't heard any of the others, but I have to admit I recall the voice -- pretty distinctive. The arrangements are simpler here, with rhythm and voice differentiating three covers -- including a slowed down, shaded Beatles song ("And I Love Her") and a hepped up, choppy Dylan (the title cut). His originals don't stick, but they fit the flow. B+(**)
  • Noah Preminger Group: Dry Bridge Road (2007 [2008], Nowt): Tenor saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, first album, fronting a postbop sextet with well established musicians: Russ Johnson (trumpet), Frank Kimbrough (piano), Ben Monder (guitar), John Hebert (bass), Ted Poor (drums). Not something I find all that interesting, but well done, superb group, closes strong with the drum-driven "Rhythm for Robert." B+(**)
  • Dafnis Prieto: Taking the Soul for a Walk (2007 [2008], Dafnison): Unquestionably the hot young drummer from Cuba. Everyone but me seems to love him, and I don't doubt his chops or his ambition, but I don't much enjoy listening to him. He plays the herky-jerk Afro-Cuban switchback game almost too effortlessly, burying it in ornate orchestration, especially slick with the three front-line horns here (Peter Apfelbaum, Avishai Cohen, and Yosvany Terry). B
  • Princes Amongst Men: Journeys With Gypsy Musicians (1964-2007 [2008], Asphalt Tango): Presented as the soundtrack to Garth Cartwright's book of the same name, this could also serve as a sampler for the label's exceptional catalog -- their Sounds From a Bygone Age series on Romania, newer acts like Fanfare Ciocarlia -- but it goes further, picking up such notable artists as Boban Markovic and Taraf de Haidouks, and others I'm unfamiliar with. Cartwright, originally from New Zealand, first set foot in the Balkans in 1991, returning in 2003 to wander and write his way through Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia. All are amply represented here, common threads with distinct local variations, much of it quite remarkable. Documentation raises more questions than it answers -- maybe a teaser for the book? A-
  • Tito Puente & His Orchestra: Live at the 1977 Monterey Jazz Festival (1977 [2008], Monterey Jazz Festival): A typical set by the great timbalero and his venerable orchestra, featuring signature tunes like "Oye Como Va" and "El Rey del Timbal," rhumbas and mambos, a dash of riskier Afro-Cuban jazz, and a cha cha take on Stevie Wonder. B+(*)

    Lucía Pulido: Luna Menguante/Waning Moon (2008, Adventure Music): Hot-blooded, arch-voiced Colombian chanteuse, based in New York, all the better to pick up talent like bassist Stomu Takeishi, drummer Ted Poor, clarinetist/flautist Adam Kolker, and (uncredited on the cover) trombonist Rafi Malkiel. They make all the difference, although I may be overly wary of such emoting in a language I don't adequately understand. B+(*)

  • Quadro Nuevo: Ciné Passion (2000 [2008], Justin Time): German group, an "acoustic quartet" with Mulo Francel (reeds), Robert Wolf (guitar), Heinz-Ludger Jeromin (accordion), and D.D. Lowka (bass). (Jeromin later replaced by Andreas Hinterseher.) I ran across them first on their later Tango Bitter Sweet, which seems like the niche they were built for. This reissue rambles through various movie themes -- "La Strada," "Un Homme et une Femme," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Jean de Florette," "Spartacus"; Astor Piazzolla, Ennio Morricone, James Newton Howard. Some guests, including a string quartet. B
  • Dianne Reeves: When You Know (2008, Blue Note): Love songs -- "Lovin' You," "I'm in Love Again," "Once I Loved," including some treacly pop tunes and one piece of Jon Hendricks vocalese. "Over the Weekend" is probably the melodramatic worst. Two cuts flow the violins, but most are just guitar, keyb, bass, drums. George Duke produced. The exception to all the above is the finale, called "Today Will Be a Good Day" -- the only cut Reeves wrote, citing her monther for inspiration; it marches to a different beat, with Russell Malone's guitar rockish, a choice cut. B-
  • Pete Rodríguez: El Alquimista/The Alchemist (2008, Conde Music): Trumpeter, b. 1969, from Puerto Rico, based in NJ, has a couple of previous records. He's ably supported here by Ricardo Rodríguez on bass, Henry Cole on drums, and Roberto Quintero, and frequently upstaged by splashy performances from pianist Luis Perdomo and tenor saxophonist David Sánchez. Impressive as the latter two are, I find their whiplash approach to Latin jazz often disorienting. Trumpet sounds fine. B+(*)
  • Hans-Joachim Roedelius/Tim Story: Inlandish (2008, Gronland): Two synth players. Roedelius was part of the kraut rock group Cluster (sometimes just a duo with Dieter Moebius) from 1970 on, also making a couple of 1977-78 ambient records with Brian Eno. Story came along in 1981. He has a dozen or so records, mostly filed under New Age (one was released on Windham Hill), although there's not a lot of difference between the two. Non-swing ambient pieces, the first one in particular ("As It Were") is especially enchanting; the weaker tracks merely more inscrutable. B+(**)
  • Curtis Salgado: Clean Getaway (2008, Shanachie): B. 1954, Everett, WA; based in Portland, OR. Cover hypes him as "a true soul singer." I make him more as a blues singer, but he goes with the songs. Reportedly the inspiration for John Belushi's Blues Brothers. Sang in Robert Cray's band before Cray took over; later sang in Santana. Good singer, sometimes reminding you of better ones, like when he's doing their songs. B
  • Angelica Sanchez: Life Between (2007 [2008], Clean Feed): Pianist, also fond of electronic keyboards, from Phoenix, AZ; based in New York; one previous album, plus some trio work with her husband, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. Wrote all of the pieces here. Only a few stretches showcase her piano, interesting enough, but she's attracted a very high powered quintet, with Malaby, Marc Ducret on guitar, Drew Gress on bass, and Tom Rainey on drums. B+(**)
  • Janine Santana: Soft as Granite (2008, NiNi): Percussionist, plays congas, guiro, maracas, claves; has a vocal credit, although Wendy Fopeano and Kihn Imuri also sing, and no info on who did what. Based in Denver. Alto saxophonist Richie Cole and percussionist José Madera get "featuring" credit on the front cover, and Cole wrote some liner notes. Figure them for a Latin funk band, one that can keep a strong groove running, and mix in a little something-else when you're not expecting it -- Stevie Wonder's "Big Brother" sounds like it came from another record, but makes itself at home. No real bio info -- does one song from Carlos Santana, but no mention of a relationship. B+(**)
  • Boz Scaggs: Speak Low (2008, Decca): Another pop singer running low on juice cracks open the old standards book. Nice, smart versions of things like "Speak Low" and "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," but I could do without "Dindi." Still, the main thing is that while there's nothing wrong with Scaggs' singing, there's not much special about it either -- unlike, say, Rod Stewart. Instrumentation, strings even, are always tasteful. B
  • Peter Schärli Trio Feat. Ithamara Koorax: Obrigado Dom Um Romão (2006 [2008], TCB): Schärli plays trumpet; was born 1955; has at least 8 albums since 1986, including at least one focusing on Brazilian music. Trio includes Markus Stalder on guitar and Thomas Dürst on double bass. Koorax is a Brazilian vocalist, b. 1965 in Rio de Janeiro, the daughter of Polish Jews who fled Europe during WWII. Dom Um Romão was a famous Brazilian percussionist, 1924-2005. One cut here incorporates a berimbau solo Romão recorded in the 1990s. I suppose the lack of drums in this tribute could signify his absence. Mostly slow Brazilian tunes, two standards ("Love for Sale," "I Fall in Love Too Easily"), a Schärli original, done with a lot of haunting, smokey atmosphere. B+(**)
  • Lee Shaw Trio: Live in Graz (2007 [2008], ARC, CD+DVD): Pianist, b. 1926 in Oklahoma, spent some time in Chicago, lists Oscar Peterson among her "studied withs," now based in Albany, NY; has a few records since 1996, picking up after her husband, drummer Stan Shaw, died in 2001, but was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1993 -- don't know what led to that. Trio includes Jeff Syracuse on bass, Jeff Siegel on drums. Five originals and three covers, including pieces from contemporary pianists Ahmad Jamal and Billy Taylor. DVD has a couple of concert clips and some interviews -- she has a higher opinion of Oklahoma education than I do. Good mainstream piano trio. B+(*)
  • Jenny Scheinman (2008, Koch): Violinist, the most consistently impressive one to have emerged since well before Regina Carter. She's always had a fondness for folkie melodies, but this takes that seed and grows it into a whole new plant: she plays some lovely country-ish fiddle, but appears mostly as a vocalist -- not a jazz vocalist, mind you, more like alt-country, suggesting that if she wanted to she could smoke Alison Krauss on both counts. If she doesn't, she's only keeping in character. Wrote four songs, which tend to rock more than the trad or neo-trad covers she picks. The one from Lucinda Williams measures up well. The Mississippi John Hurt ("Miss Collins") and Tom Waits ("Johnsburg, Illinois") are choice cuts. Tony Scherr fills in guitar, bass, and almost everything else, with added bass and drums on a few cuts, and a Bill Frisell cameo on one. Not quite sure what to make of it. B+(**) [originally B+(***)]
  • Chip Shelton & Peacetime: Imbued With Memories (2007 [2008], Summit): No birth date given, but if he was in high school and college (Howard, studying dentistry) in the 1960s, he must be close to 60 now. Recording career starts in the 1980s. Mostly plays flute, along with piccolo and a little sax. Band relies on guitar (Lou Volpe, sweet and tasty), keyboards, and extra percussion, with a persistent groove. In other words, this is smooth jazz, maybe with a little higher aims and less cash in prospect. Jann Parker guests on the obligatory radio vocal cut. C+
  • Andy Scherrer Special Sextet: Wrong Is Right (2007 [2008], TCB): Saxophonist, b. 1946 in Switzerland, based in Basel; four albums since 2000, but has worked at least since 1972, playing with Vienna Art Orchestra since 1991. Credited with "saxes" here; all the photos I've seen show him with tenor sax, but VAO also credits him with soprano sax and piano. Sextet has two more reeds (both credited with tenor sax and bass clarinet): Domenic Landolf and Jürg Bucher. They provide a lively front line that's hard to sort out. Pianist Bill Carrothers gets a front cover "feat." credit. His solos sparkle, and he keeps the band moving. Title picks up on a Thelonious Monk quote. Several band members contribute pieces, plus one from John Coltrane, one from Ornette Coleman, one from trad. Richly figured postbop, not quite wrong enough to really do right. B+(**)
  • Judi Silvano: Cleome: Live Takes (2008, JSL): I think there's some market research that shows that people relate more readily to records with vocals than they do to instrumentals, and that in turn is one reason instrumental jazz remains so far out on the commercial fringe. I personally take the opposite view. I much prefer the clear sound of horns, especially when the lyrics don't signify much of anything -- and they never signify less than in scat, where the comparison to horns is most explicit. Of course, you could make scat worse by dispensing with the rhythm and letting the singer wander deaf and blind over the charts, which isn't that far removed from what Silvano does here. I find the vocal parts pretty much unlistenable here, which is a shame because the same music without vocals would easily sail into HM territory. I might even have cut them some slack, because it's not every day you get to hear the legendary George Garzone -- an especially nice touch, given that Silvano could have inexpensively featured husband Joe Lovano instead. The rhythm section is Michael Formanek on bass and Gerry Hemingway on drums, with John Lindberg slipping in on Silvano's two covers. Some remarkable patches here. If my initial reaction wasn't so visceral, I'd put it back and see what comes of it. B-
  • Nina Simone: To Be Bree: The Nina Simone Story (1957-93 [2008], RCA/Legacy, 3CD): Package is 5.25 inches high, 11.25 inches wide, no deeper than a jewel box -- a combination that fits on no known shelving. Starts with 3 Bethlehem tracks (1957), 8 Colpix (1959-64), 5 Phillips (1964-65); ends with 1 Elektra (1993), the balance inexpensively culled from RCA's catalog, including live takes of older hits: about the same shape as the 2-CD Anthology from 2003, just longer, with more marginal stuff. Simone was courageous politically, cautious romantically, sometimes brilliant, but more often her covers were only as deep as her voice -- songs like "Mr. Bojangles" come off as mere exercises. This hits the key points, and stays away from the dross which dominated her RCA catalog, but offers no surprises. Documentation is good. B+(**)
  • South Florida Jazz Orchestra (2008, MAMA): Directed by bassist Chuck Bergeron, who teaches at University of Miami, has three records under his own name, maybe three dozen side credits since 1988. Basic full bore big band line up, plus a spare piano and a fifth trombone, plus a set of guests: Charles Pillow, Ed Calle, Kevin Mahogany, and Arturo Sandoval got listed on the front cover; Mike Lewis, Dana Paul, and Nicole Yarling in the fine print. No credits on any of those, but some are obvious. John Fedchock, a big band hand from New York, produced. Well crafted, a lot of neat details on top of the propulsive swing. The few vocals don't fare as well, although "Nature Boy" (Mahogany, I presume) is nice to hear. B
  • Spring Heel Jack: Songs & Themes (2007 [2008], Thirsty Ear): More themes than songs, pastiches of mood with some jazz flourishes -- Roy Campbell trumpet, John Tchicai sax -- on top of a wide range of samples and textures. Took me a while to warm up to it. Never got a final copy. B+(*)
  • John Stein: Encounter Point (2007 [2008], Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, originally from Kansas City, has a half-dozen albums. Quartet here, mostly funk licks over Koichi Sato's electric keyboard, with a little samba wedged in, not just to make drummer Zé Eduardo Nazario feel at home. B+(*)
  • The Stryker/Slagle Band: The Scene (2008, Zoho): Fourth album under this name, although guitarist Dave Stryker and alto saxophonist Steve Slagle appeared on each other's albums long before their merger. Jay Anderson plays bass, Lewis Nash drums. Joe Lovano joins in on four cuts, but he's mostly wasted on slow and overly slick stuff. And then there's Slagle's characteristic flute cut. On the other hand, the band's usual upbeat postbop is pretty tasty. B+(*)
  • Fred Taylor and Inquest: Processional (2006, Crinkle-Cuts): Drummer, based in NJ. Some months ago I wrote up a note on his latest trio record, Circling. This is an earlier record, but arrived later, presumably as background. Quartet, crediting Gary Rollins with guitars, James Clark with basses, and Craig Lawrence with woodwinds -- back cover picture shows him with a clarinet; booklet also mentions soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute, all of which are mild and atmospheric. Rollins' guitars are more prominent, both driving and carrying the load. Pleasant, grooveful, could pass for new age. B
  • Fred Taylor Trio: Circling (2008, CCR-FT): Drummer, b. 1954, Spokane, WA; worked in Seattle, Vancouver, Minneapolis; now based in NJ. Seems to have a fusion background, although this is postbop, with Rick Crane on bass, Bob Ackerman on alto sax, flute, and clarinet. Could just as well be Ackerman's record, especially given that he wrote most of the pieces -- Taylor's credits are arranging "Dear Old Stockholm" and his share of the group improv "Inventions I and II." B+(*)
  • Tetterapadequ: And the Missing R (2007 [2008], Clean Feed): Quartet, two Italians up front (Daniele Martini on tenor sax, Giovanni Di Domenico on piano), two Portuguese back (Gonçalo Almeida on bass, João Lobo on drums). Group name is a word puzzle, with an 'R' removed to the title. Mostly free, but rather subdued, with stretches that only barely register -- when they do it is often the piano -- and others that start to cohere into something promising. Went sub-audible for long enough to make me think it was done, then gradually klunked back, ending with some skronk and a laugh. B+(*)
  • Cal Tjader: The Best of Cal Tjader: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-1980 (1958-80 [2008], Monterey Jazz Festival): A short set from 1958 with Buddy DeFranco bebop over the vibraphonist's Latin stew, and four choice 1972-80 shots, starting with Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry teaching him how to play "Manteca." I remember going through my database once and deciding that Tjader was the most accomplished jazz musician on the list that I hadn't heard yet, so I'm far from an expert, but these cuts strike me as a well chosen primer. B+(**)
  • Trio Viriditas: Live at Vision Festival VI (2001 [2008], Clean Feed): Alfred Harth (aka A23H) on reeds, pocket trumpet voice; Wilber Morris on bass; Kevin Norton on drums. Harth is a new one to me. (Not really: I found one co-credit in my database, but it didn't register in my memory.) AMG lists him under Opera with virtually no info. Other sources show a discography going back to 1969, including 7 albums as Duo Goebbels/Harth (that would be keyboard player Heiner Goebbels); collaborations with John Zorn, Peter Brötzmann, Lindsay Cooper, Otomo Yoshihide; various groups, sample names: Just Music, Duck and Cover, Vladimir Estragon, Gestalt et Jive, Imperial Hoot, Sogennantes Linksradikales Blasorchester (So-Called Left-Radical Brass Band). He's usually identified as a multi-media artist. Morris and Norton are, or should be, well known, at least in avant-jazz circles. This starts up awkwardly, but settles into free jazz's alternative equivalent of a groove. Not credited, but I could swear this ends with a long quote from "On the Street Where You Live." B+(**)
  • Tuner: Pole (2005-06 [2007], Unsung): Not background; just an earlier record I shelved and didn't bother with. Group is duo with Markus Reuter on guitars (mostly) and Pat Mastelotto on drums (mostly), with nine guests listed. Like the quasi-industrial instrumentals; don't like the cult doom-and-gloom vocals -- the talkie ones aren't so bad, but the whispery ones are just creepy. B
  • Tuner: Totem (2005 [2008], Unsung): Another rock record slipped into the stack. Quasi-industrial, chompy hard beats, fuzz guitar, more instrumental than not, with long stairstepped segues and some chant-like but ignorable vocals. "Dexter Ward," with its long instrumental outro, is a good example. B+(**)
  • Steve Turre: Rainbow People (2007 [2008], High Note): The poll-winning trombonist of the last decade-plus, strikes me as something of a chameleon, with no particular style of his own but a remarkable knack for blending in wherever he goes. Taps Mulgrew Miller to play a little McCoy Tyner, Kenny Garrett for some Charlie Parker, Pedro Martinez for a slick Latin closer. Gets superb help from Peter Washington and Ignacio Berroa, of course. Pretty good trombone, too. B+(**)
  • McCoy Tyner: Guitars (2006 [2008], McCoy Tyner Music/Half Note): Quartets, with Ron Carter on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and a smattering of guitarists sharing the center stage with Tyner: Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Bill Frisell, and Bela Fleck (uh, banjo). Scattered results, with Ribot's metallica and Fleck's hokum the outliers, and Trucks playing it safest with "Slapback Blues" and "Greensleeves." Scofield's "Mr. P.C." is pretty safe, too. Frisell's closer, "Baba Drame" from Boubacar Traore, is the choice cut. Comes with a DVD I haven't seen yet. B+(*)
  • The Warren Vaché-John Allred Quintet: Live in Bern Switzerland at Marians Jazzroom: Jubilation (2007 [2008], Arbors): The leaders play cornet and trombone, respectively, although Allred makes less of an impression than usual, and Vaché is clearly the leader. With Tardo Hammer on piano, Nicki Parrott on bass, Leroy Williams on drums. Seems like a typical cross-section of Vaché's shtick: Gershwin and Berlin, "Caravan," "Old Devil Moon," a couple of newer tunes strong on melody (two from Horace Silver, one from Junior Mance), a couple of his haphazard but charming vocals, one a trash-talking duet with Parrott (pronounced "pah-rot") -- in fact, called "Sweet Hunk o' Trash." B+(**)
  • Peter Van Huffel/Sophie Tassignon: Hufflignon (2008, Clean Feed): Van Huffel plays alto/soprano sax, comes from Canada, is based in New York and/or Berlin. I've heard a previous album on FSNT which showed him to be an interesting postbop player. Tassignon is a vocalist, from Belgium. She wrote six pieces to Van Huffel's three, with one cover from someone named Vivaldi. Even without the latter, her voice is archly operatic, the effect partly moderated by slow speeds and free structures. B-
  • Johnny Varro Swing 7: Ring Dem Bells (2007 [2008], Arbors): Veteran swing pianist, b. 1930, broke in Bobby Hackett in 1953, spent much of the next decade with Eddie Condon. Has a pile of records on Arbors -- his Swing 7 group is pretty much the label's all-stars: Randy Sandke (trumpet), Dan Barrett (trombone), Scott Robinson (tenor sax), Ken Peplowski (alto sax/clarinet), Frank Tate (bass), Joe Ascione (drums). Such a group could hardly do wrong, especially on proven standard fare, but they never kick it up that necessary notch. Scattered pleasures, shy of a tour de force. B+(*)
  • Eric Vloeimans: Gatecrash (2007 [2008], Challenge): Trumpet player, b. 1963, the Netherlands, studied with Donald Byrd, has a dozen or so albums since 1992. With electric keyboardist Jeroen van Vliet setting the framework for this quartet, he's set up for some kind of fusion, but tends more toward postbop pastels, partly because plugging in doesn't guarantee enough of a groove. B+(*)
  • Von Garcia: I Think a Think (2008, Sluggo's Goon Music): Hype sheet describes Sluggo's Goon Music as a collective as well as a label. Also describes Von Garcia as an "ambient noise rock project," led by James von Buelow (guitar, keyb, vocal) and Damon Trotta (bass, dobro, percussion, programming). Other vocals and instruments are listed -- guitarist Ben Monder, in for a solo feature, is the only one I recognize. More rock than jazz, but the vocals are tossed off on the side, the regular beat leans toward funk, and the guitars get to stretch out. I like it better without the vocals. B+(**)
  • Mark Weinstein: Lua e Sol (2008, Jazzheads): Flute player, has a dozen or so albums since 1996, mostly in Latin idioms. This one is firmly rooted in Brazil, with Romero Lubambo on guitar, Nilson Mata on bass (and co-producing), and Cyro Baptista on percussion. I've never cared much for flute, but can't complain here: he ranges from decorative to delectable, and Lubambo is especially superb. B+(*)
  • Jimmy Witherspoon: Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival (1959-72 [2008], Monterey Jazz Festival): The last of the Kansas City blues shouters, in a surly mood that could pass for spirit if you cut him some slack; his Jimmy Rushing tribute is heartfelt but not up to snuff; his praise for guitarist Robben Ford is earned but not such a big deal; the bonus track from 1959 towers above the later performance, not just because Messrs. Hines, Herman, Hawkins, Webster, and Eldridge are in the band, but they sure help. B
  • Ben Wolfe: No Strangers Here (2007 [2008], MaxJazz): Bassist, born in Baltimore MD, raised in Portland OR; worked with Harry Connick Jr. from 1989, Wynton Marsalis from 1994, Diana Krall from 1998 -- side credits favor singers about 2-to-1. Composes and arranges, with five albums under his own name since 1997. Says this is the one he always wanted to do, which you can believe because there's so much kitchen sink in here. He has Greg Hutchinson on drums, but still brings in Tain Watts for a cut; he has Marcus Strickland on tenor/soprano sax, but still taps Branford Marsalis twice. Terrell Stafford drops in for a couple of tracks on trumpet. At least he has the good sense to stick with pianist Luis Perdomo. Also has a string quartet which seeps out of the mix when the horns don't scare them off. Chalk it up to postbop excess. But as Mingus showed so often, nothing is really excessive so long as you can key on the bassist. B+(**)
  • The Stephane Wrembel Trio: Gypsy Rumble (2005 [2008], Amoeba Music): Not familiar with this label, so don't know whether the slim slip cover is just a promo or their idea of finished product. Copyright is 2005, so don't even know if it is new. Full artist credit adds: with special guest David Grisman. The trio has Wrembel on lead guitar, Eric Rodgers on rhythm guitar, and Jared Engel on bass. Grisman plays mandolin. Has a rough hewn string band feel, a fairly consistent but limited sound. Ends on an up notes with two cuts with Brandi Shearer singing and a more/less different band, including Ralph Carney horns. B
  • Eri Yamamoto: Duologue (2008, AUM Fidelity): Young pianist, wrote all the pieces, mostly around rhythm vamps which, while not all that distinctive, provide common ground for four pairs of spare, understated duos. She keeps good company: drummers Federico Ughi and Hamid Drake, bassist William Parker, and alto/tenor saxophonist Daniel Carter. The latter is a revelation here, playing tight in what amounts to a ballad mode. B+(**)]
  • Jacob Young: Sideways (2006 [2008], ECM): Continues to be an interesting guitarist although he's showing signs of being willing to settle down into ECM's file cabinet about midway between John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner. Group includes two horns -- Mathias Eick on trumpet, Vidar Johansen on tenor sax/bass clarinet -- but they work slow and mostly fill in. Previous album, Evening Falls, seemed more promising. B+(*)
  • Carlos "Zingaro"/Dominique Regef/Wilbert DeJoode String Trio: Spectrum (2004 [2008], Clean Feed): Regef's hurdy gurdy splits the spectrum between violin and bass, or something like that -- I'm not really sure how to follow it. In any case, the strings squeek, squirm, and squelch: this is not chamber music in any polite sense. It is difficult music, a challenge, but it is listenable, a chore perhaps, but not monotonous or gratuitously violent. Zingaro has a large discography. The few bits I've heard make him a subject for future research. B+(**)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

House Log

Cabinet people came again today, putting more doors on and adding some finishing touches. I complained about unreachable adjustable shelves in the wall corner unit, so they swapped them out for a lazy susan -- we set the bottom tray about a foot up, so we can use the bottom as a full shelf. They also cut the stove corner unit hole out a bit better (cf. yesterday's rant). Got the dishwasher set in right, with the anti-tip screws tight. Put the new garbage disposer under the old jerry-rigged sink, so we have temporary running water until countertop arrives. Went with the top-of-the-line InSinkErator: 1 HP, extra grinders, extra soundproofing, hard to tell it's even on.

Attached the remaining shelf units to the east and north dining room walls. The three units in the corner were tough to get lined up and tight to the walls. The remaining freestanding unit was a breeze. Put some paint stripper on the window trim. Will let that sit overnight. I've never had good luck with paint strippers in the past, but grinding the paint off didn't seem like such a good idea either.

Meant to do some more work this evening, but was exhausted and took a nap. Good weather today. Too bad we didn't have time to cut up some boards. I want to get the range and refrigerator boxes built soon, and the pantry cabinet cut out. Still have the south wall units to finish, but for now they're sitting out of the way, providing lots of temporary storage for tools and junk. Getting the east and north shelf units up leaves the middle of the dining room floor empty for the first time since the project began.

Monday, February 09, 2009

House Log

Thought we would go out shopping this morning, but various things got in the way, starting with the cabinet maker promising an appearance. When they finally appeared, they put several doors up, added the shelves to the wall unit, and put some crown molding on top. Sink base also got new doors, but a couple are still missing. Looks like the missing pieces will come in dribs and drabs. What we have looks pretty good, although I'm not very happy with the stove corner cabinet. The front has two openings: one north, the other east. North is a box roughly 16 inches wide and 24 deep, open with no shelves but a slide-out board on top. East extends 12 inches beyond the north face, and about 14 inches deep, with a north side going back to about 5 inches from the back of the north cabinet. Big problem is that the unit was built with a board dividing the two compartments, which makes most of the east box inaccessible. (One thing that makes this even worse is that the old cabinet set up worked the same way, a major defect to my mind.) When I complained, they agreed to chop a hole between the two compartments. They did so, but it came out very sloppy, with crooked cuts and several conspicuous accidents. Not sure what to do at this point. A bigger hole would be better if we can figure out how to cut it straight. Otherwise it's tempting to tear it apart and rebuild it to spec.

Meanwhile, we were working on fitting the shelf units, and they didn't fit. Solved the problem by ripping off the 1-inch molding caps on both sides of the windows, which leave us with roughly 0.5-inch gaps. Secured the south unit on the east wall. Put the next three units -- the northeast corner -- in place, clamping them together but didn't get far enough to secure them.

One problem we ran into is that no one much likes the Van Deusen Blue semigloss paint on the window frames: not enough contrast to the blue-gray of the shelves. Plus we tore up much of the finish when we took the side moldings off. So now we're thinking about rethinking how to finish them. Maybe switch to the white cabinet paint? If so, we'll probably have to detour tomorrow to take some of the blue paint off.

Music Week

Music: Current count 15141 [15130] rated (+11), 768 [731] unrated (+37). Much house work. Not much listening. Finally catalogued the incoming, so the growing hole is at least current.

  • Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III (2008, Cash Money/Universal, 2CD): Played this on Rhapsody way back when. Wasn't blown away, and still ain't convinced this is really top drawer, but he's damn good at picking his samples and mixing around them. Rhymes are weaker, but that doesn't stop him from doctoring the less gifted. Still have two Mixtraps that are likely better still, but haven't put the time in yet. Haven't played the bonus disk yet. Still a project, so this is still provisional. [Did play the 5-cut bonus disc a couple of times. Stronger songwise than the main disc.] A-
  • TI: Paper Trail (2008, Grand Hustle/Atlantic): Rap with a high pop quotient -- some spots remind me of Nelly with the backup cheers and hoots. A-

Jazz Prospecting (CG #19, Part 6)

Totally buried in house work, so these weekly posts continue to limp along, with just enough to make them worth posting. At least I did manage to catalog two weeks of unpacking, so I have some measure of how far I'm falling behind. Don't expect much to change for the next two weeks. Making some progress, but still have a lot to do.

Got an edited copy of the pending Jazz Consumer Guide (18) back from the Voice last week, and squared the details away. Not sure, but most likely that means it will run this week -- worst case the following week.

George Robert Jazztet: Remember the Sound: Homage to Michael Brecker (2008 [2009], TCB): George Robert is a Swiss alto saxophonist, attended Berklee 1980, moved on to New York 1985, eventually landing back at the Lausanne Conservatory. Has something like 16 albums since 1987. AMG lists him as influenced by Charlie Parker and Phil Woods; I guess we can add Michael Brecker to that list. Don't know what other connection there is, but then I'm not all that up on Breckeriana. The music here is actually all composed and arranged by Jim McNeely. The Jazztet is a ten-piece group, not counting "special guest" Randy Brecker. Lushly orchestrated postbop, a bit overripe. B

Jim Hall & Bill Frisell: Hemispheres (2007-08 [2009], ArtistShare, 2CD): One disc of guitar duets, the second recorded a year later with Scott Colley on bass and Joey Baron on drums. Hall's always been a subtle artist, and he takes the lead here with his intricate explorations. B+(***)

Greg Reitan: Some Other Time (2008 [2009], Sunnyside): Young pianist, from Seattle, based in Los Angeles; debut album, a trio with Jack Daro on bass, Dean Koba on drums, none of whom I was previously acquainted with. AMG's review groups him with Taylor Eigsti and Eldar Djangirov, but I'd say he's much better -- assured, straightforward, pleasant. Denny Zeitlin gets thanks. Bill Evans gets a nod. B+(**)

Eliane Elias: Bossa Nova Stories (2008 [2009], Blue Note): The 50th anniversary of bossa nova; also the 48th of the Brazilian bombshell pianist-turned-singer, as well preserved and presented in her black dress as the classic songs. The Jobim numbers are the most obvious, unnecessary given her definitive Sings Jobim (1997) but irresistible. Better still are the bossa-fied Tin Pan Alley standards -- the Gershwins' "They Can't Take That Away From Me" has never sounded more salacious. Stevie Wonder's "Superwoman" is the fish out of water -- guess she figure she's entitled. B+(***)

The Bad Plus: For All I Care (2008 [2009], Heads Up): Front cover adds: "Joined by Wendy Lewis." Lewis is a singer, based in Minneapolis, don't know much more. Her presence pushed the piano trio to doing more cover songs, which leads to some not very interesting generational issues. They date their classics from the 1970s with Pink Floyd and Yes, and mix them in with the 1990s as represented by Nirvana, Wilco, and Flaming Lips. Aside from Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" they are songs I'd happily never hear again, given a sharp jolt by the band then waxed into torpor by the singer. Between the touchstones are some short quasi-classical instrumentals Igor from Stravinsky, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Milton Babbitt -- the latter repeated in an alternate version. B-

Larry Ochs/Miya Masaoka/Peggy Lee: Spiller Alley (2006 [2008], RogueArt): Ochs is one of the saxophonists in ROVA. I had read a rave this release in Stef's Free Jazz blog, knew that I'd never gotten so much as an email response from the label, but was curious enough to approach the artist. After an amusing round of emails, Ochs sent me a couple years' output, which I'll slowly work my way through. Thought I'd start here. Masaoka plays koto and Lee plays cello, so there's a dominant string motif here. Ochs plays tenor and soprano sax, the former listed first but the latter seems the more temperamental fit -- in any case, he tends to defer to the koto lead, coloring in rather than blowing ahead. Likewise, Lee plays more like a bassist, just a little off pitch. Good example of mutual listening, three musicians feeling their way through difficult and unforseen terrain. B+(***)

Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn: Farmers by Nature (2008 [2009], AUM Fidelity): Artists listed alphabetically, although Cleaver gets co-credith with Steven Joerg for production; all pieces attributed to all three, also alphabetically. I'm filing it under Cleaver, a journeyman drummer who's played on a lot of good records and is slowly building up a short list of unspectacular ones under his own name. Taborn is a pianist who came up in James Carter's quartet. Better known these days for his Fender Rhodes, but plays acoustic here, poking around abstractly, with muted Don Pullen flashes. Best thing here is when Taborn picks up a jagged groove and the others knock him about. Parker, of course, is superb in his supporting role, and brilliant as a soloist, at least when you can hear him clearly. Recorded at the Stone, NYC, rather offhandedly with a bit of applause at the end. Nice pictures, especially on the back cover. B+(*)

Benny Golson: New Time, New 'Tet (2008 [2009], Concord): Title makes me wonder whether he's ever considered calling one of his albums The Tet Offensive. Probably not -- too much of a sweetheart, for one thing. Will hit his 80th birthday this year. Best remembered for his group with Art Farmer, for writing several canonical tunes of the 1950s jazz era, and increasingly for outliving nearly all of his contemporaries. Also for a keystone role in the movie The Terminal, where he was singled out as the last person a fan tracked down for a "great day in Harlem" autograph. Seems like he's always been on the cusp between one of the greats and a really good guy who hung with them. This album is of a piece with his career and its recent framing. The New 'Tet is a six-piece with brass (Eddie Henderson and Steve Davis) around the sax, Mike LeDonne on piano, Buster Williams on bass, and Carl Allen on drums -- all players who fit Golson like a glove. Golson's long been noted for his arrangements, a talent he shows off by making Verdi and Chopin listenable, doing better with El DeBarge, and framing Rollins and Monk classics, as well as reworking some of his old stand-bys -- the guest vocal by Al Jarreau strikes me as a misstep. For all his skills, I don't find any of this very interesting -- suitably nostalgic, maybe. B+(*)

Jason Rigby: The Sage (2008, Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, also plays some soprano and flute, based in New York, on his second album. Quintet, hard bop lineup with some postbop flair -- Russ Johnson (trumpet), Mike Holober (Fender Rhodes), Cameron Brown (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- and some classic bop speed and panache. The electric piano has an interesting effect here. It doesn't seem to tie the horns down like piano usually does, but Rigby plays with so much intensity it would be hard to corral him anyway. B+(***)

Nels Cline: Coward (2008 [2009], Cryptogramophone): Solo guitar: acoustic (some), electric (mostly), effects (lots), some extra overdub junk. Solo records often sound like practice; this a bit less than the norm, but not the exception either. Rather, this plays a like a notebook of ideas, some of which can be developed into something, others discarded. As such, it oscillates more than usual between the annoying and intriguing. The latter more often than not tend to be rockish, dividends perhaps from Cline's slumming with Wilco. B [Feb. 10]

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

Some corrections and further notes on recent prospecting:

Steve Adams Trio: Surface Tension (2000 [2008], Clean Feed): I was more/less right when I finally recognized ROVA as an acronym based on its member last name. The original lineup was Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voigt, and Bruce Ackley, so the 'A' was Ackley, not Steve Adams, who replaced Voigt in the late 1980s. The lineup has remained the same since then.

For this cycle's collected Jazz Prospecting notes, look here.


  • Claudia Acuña: En Este Momento (Marsalis Music): advance, Apr. 7
  • Amadou & Mariam: Welcome to Mali (Because Music/Nonesuch): advance, Mar. 24
  • Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Put the Flavor on It (Carlo Music): Apr. 7
  • Diego Barber: Calima (Sunnyside)
  • David Binney: Third Occasion (Mythology)
  • Don Braden: Gentle Storm (High Note)
  • Burnt Sugar: Making Love to the Dark Ages (Live Wire)
  • Teddy Charles: Dances With Bulls (Smalls)
  • Don Cherry/Nana Vasconcelos/Collin Walcott: The Codona Trilogy (1978-82, ECM, 3CD)
  • Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3: Night Whispers (Pirouet)
  • Coyote Poets of the Universe: Callin' You Home (Square Shaped)
  • Theo Crocker: In the Tradition (Arbors)
  • Lars Danielsson: Tarantella (ACT): Feb. 27
  • Joey DeFrancesco: Joey D! (High Note)
  • Early Trane: The John Coltrane Songbook [The Composer Collection Volume 2] (High Note)
  • Charles Evans: The King of All Instruments (Hot Cup)
  • Fat Cat Big Band: Angels Praying for Freedom (Smalls)
  • Fat Cat Big Band: Meditations on the War for Whose Great Got Is the Most High You Are God (Smalls)
  • Melvin Gibbs' Elevated Entity:, Ancients Speak (Live Wire)
  • Russell Gunn: Love Stories (High Note)
  • Jon Hassell: Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street (ECM)
  • Al Hood: Just a Little Taste: Al Hood Plays the Writing of Dave Hanson (CDBaby)
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Senzo (Sunnyside)
  • Israel: Naranjas Sobre la Nieve (Sunnyside)
  • Jar-E: Chicas Malas (Exotic)
  • Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Yesterdays (ECM)
  • Aaron J Johnson: Songs of Our Fathers (Bubble-Sun)
  • Joachim Kühn & Michael Wollny: Piano Works IX: Live at Schloss Elmau (ACT): Feb. 27
  • Steve Kuhn: Life's Backward Glances (1974-79, ECM, 3CD)
  • Julian Lage: Sounding Point (Emarcy/Decca): advance, Mar.
  • Frank Macchia: Saxolollapaloooza (Cacophony)
  • Shawn Maxwell: Originals II (Dangerous Curve)
  • The Eddie Metz Jr. Trio: Bridging the Gap (Arbors)
  • Zaid Nasser: Off Minor (Smalls)
  • Margie Notte: Just You, Just Me & Friends: Live at Cecil's (Gnote)
  • Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio: Live in New York (Omac)
  • The Art and Soul of Houston Person (1996-2008, High Note, 3CD)
  • Pirouet Jazz Compilation, Vol. I: The Best Is Yet to Come (Pirouet)
  • Enrico Rava: New York Days (ECM)
  • Refuge Trio (Winter & Winter): Gary Versace, Theo Bleckman, John Hollenbeck
  • Philippe Saisse: At World's Edge (Koch): Mar. 10
  • Lisa Sokolov: A Quiet Thing (Laughing Horse)
  • Martial Solal: Live at the Village Vanguard: I Can't Give You Anything but Love (CAM Jazz)
  • Vinnie Sperrazza/Matt Blostein: Ursa Minor (Envoi)
  • Gianluigi Trovesi: All'Opera: Profumo di Violetta (ECM)
  • Cedar Walton: Seasoned Wood (High Note)
  • Ben Wendel: Simple Song (Sunnyside): Mar. 24
  • White Rocket (Diatribe): Feb. 10
  • Bill Wimmer: Project Omaha (Wimjazz): Apr. 7

Sunday, February 08, 2009

House Log

Falling behind, at least on the log. Friday was a big day, with electrician and plumber coming over. Electrician finished up the 240V line for the wall oven, added a new line for range and hood, and did something strange to the garbage disposal and dishwasher circuits. The latter could have been done more elegantly, to say the least. Old set up had them on separate circuits, mixed in with outlets and other appliances. I wanted them isolated on their own 20A line. Used the dishwasher line, grafting the disposal onto it, but making use of the existing wires and disposal switch, resulting in a lot of crossing around, plus an extra switch and box -- the switch is evidently new code, but the box was salvaged from the first screwed up implementation. Still, was glad to get it done.

Plumber moved the range gas line about 4 inches. Wasn't much of a job, but I didn't feel expert enough to try it myself, especially given the range investment. The new range itself has a different connection than the old one, so that had to change as well. In the end, the range was ready to turn on, but I didn't go through the steps to fire it up. After everyone was gone, I did finish the wall oven installation and flipped the breaker on. Set up the time, and turned up the heat. Looks good.

Before the plumber arrived, we extended the floor level around the range to trace out the new box, and positioned the range close to where it would be, moving into final position once the gas line was moved. One piece of the range box is a new bookshelf facing the dining room. Cut that out and assembled it.

Skipped Saturday. Went to see a movie: Slumdog Millionaire -- pretty good, partly for the hero's indifference to the money, mostly for the Bombay/Mumbai history lesson, a bit because self-consciousness of "it was written" allowed them to excuse the true love clichés, and end with one of the best closing credits ever. Went to a Latin American restaurant, Sabor, afterwards: two appetizers were tasty, but my main course was an overpriced, underflavored rip-off: four overcooked scallops on bits of dough with bean paste, a mediocre appetizer passed off as an entrée. No desert either. Left me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

Sunday I realized that we could attach the shelf units to the wall without having to wait for the third paint coat: just had to paint the tops, then the third coat could go on with the units standing in place. Thought we might breeze through that and get them mounted, but no such luck. Painted the window trim around them, and did some touch up work on the bathroom door. Got the tops painted. Also did some wiring work so we can have electric outlets in the toe-kicks of each of the units. Those steps filled up most of the day, leaving us with paint that needed to dry.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Recycled Goods #61: January 2009

Posted page found here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

To Grow or Not to Grow

Andrew Leonard: East beats West for that new car smell. Might as well quote this in full:

  • January sales of cars and trucks in the U.S.: 656,976
  • Expected January sales of cars and trucks in China (final numbers come out next week): 790,000

January 2009 marks the first month in which more cars and trucks were sold in China than in the U.S. There are at least two ways to interpret these numbers.

  1. The U.S. numbers testify to the staggering collapse of the U.S. auto market. The economy is screwed.
  2. The Chinese numbers (even though slightly down from a year earlier) testify to the long-range challenge China's economic growth poses to the climate. More cars mean more greenhouse gas emissions. The earth is screwed.

What this mostly throws into relief is the growth paradigm. The US economy is screwed if it can't keep growing, because we have no way of politically adjusting the consequences of living on less -- even though there's still a lot of slop-room to work with. And the world, or more precisely human ability to live on the world in some stable order, is screwed if the world economy keeps growing, even if we forego our currently disproportionate share -- a share that makes it hard for the US to lecture China, India, Latin America, and Africa on the need to tighten belts.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

House Log

Cabinet install day today. Only partly successful. Wall cabinets had a tough time fitting, especially the 12-inch north wall unit. It now has a little more overhang than the others, as well as some outside gap space, which complicates trimming. Presumably we can fix that with some crown molding. Will be interesting to see how that looks against the dropped ceiling. The 12-inch cabinet was the only one to come with a door. The blue-gray paint glaze on the beaded inset board looks a little like NY Yankee pinstripes -- something I can't say I mind.

Base cabinets went a little easier, although the sink base took some plumbing surgery before it could slip in. We went out to pick up replacement valves, which turned into more of an ordeal than it should have been. Also missing some doors. Looks to me like the sink base will need some cutting to fit the sink in. Again, we'll need some trim to square the bases and wall edges. More pressing is the last corner unit -- the one from the sink around the corner toward the range. We'll need that unit tomorrow for laying out the template for the countertop, but as of now it hasn't been cut out and assembled, let alone finished. We checked and signed off on some measurements, and Tim [the cabinet guy] promised to bring it over 9:30 tomorrow morning. Early for me, but we need it. Won't be finished, but should be good enough to measure. It will also let us figure out the rest of the range peninsula.

Got some more of the Van Deusen Blue trim painted, a second coat in some places. I'm not real happy with it. Color is a bit iffy, finish is lousy, and we're having a lot of drip problems, so it's all looking sloppy. Need to get a handle on that. Tomorrow will be a big day, especially if the electrician shows up and wires up the oven and appliances. After the countertop people are done, we can hook up a temporary sink, and work on the peninsula.

Ordered tile today: Crossville Color Blox Night Night, 202 sq. ft. After shopping at Star, I called up Jabara and got a cheaper price. Unfortunately, it's not in stock, and looks like two weeks before we'll get it. David Halsey will install. Seems like a good guy, and was several hundred bucks cheaper than Star.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

House Log

The cabinet guy came over today to install the new cabinets, but backed off when we were still sanding the drywall above the area. Will try again tomorrow. Meanwhile, we did get that area painted, plus a coat of the Van Deusen Blue trim around the kitchen window and bathroom door, which will offset the cabinets.

Got a second quote on installing the tile floor, this one from Star Flooring, which came out about $400 more than David Halsey's quote. Star's estimator impressed me as quite competent, but he wouldn't actually be the installer, whereas Halsey would be on top of the job from start to finish. Seems like a clearcut choice. We may still buy the tile from Star. Laura is leaning to something called Color Blox Night Night, a flat dark gray with minimal color and texture variation, whereas I had been leaning toward slate-like textures. We'll make a decision and finalize this tomorrow.

The Israel Muddle

Helena Cobban: Why this American peace diplomacy is different. Provides a good overview of the various serious efforts at coming to a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, plus a detailed list of things that Cobban thinks Obama should be doing -- and the sooner the better, not least because Israelis go to the polls on Feb. 10 to decide who their favorite warmonger is. Cobban's suggestions are completely reasonable, starting with the need to deal Hamas and the large segment of Palestinians they represent into the process rather than push they away. She followed this post up with:

Helena Cobban: If there is a viable two-state solution in Israel/Palestine . . . A lot of people have been making big pronouncements lately that the two state scheme is dead, mostly because Israel has managed to dig itself so deeply into the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The problem I see with this has less to do with the facts on the ground -- the concrete is very real, as is the psychic commitment, even if the latter is limited to a substantial minority of Israelis -- than with the fact that a unified state based on equal rights (even if they don't include a right of Palestinians to return) is further still from the realm of the doable. Two-state separation requires one big thing that Israel actually possesses: military discipline. If Israel's political leaders wanted to dismantle the settlements, I have little doubt but that they could. On the other hand, equal rights requires Israelis to give up their privileged perch as the people chosen to rule the Holy Land. They never had any intent to do that, and are no closer now than they ever were. So while the appeal for equal rights is hard to fault, and there is something to be said for the practicality of not having to reverse the settlement mess, the so-called Single State Solution is mostly wielded as a demographic threat to Jewish supremacy.

One thing that should be born in mind here is that partition back in 1948 wasn't a good idea: it led immediately to the forced exile of 700,000 Palestinians, and beyond that to 60-plus years of often brutal and terrifying conflict. If two-state partition seems like a reasonable idea now, that is only because the down side has been paid: the partition has done happened. Given that, you would think that anyone who supported partition in 1948 -- which is the say, the Israeli political leadership under David Ben-Gurion -- would be happy to find a solution there today. That may have been the case, but it seems like each generation of Israeli leader becomes more aggressive and recalcitrant -- the most straightforward explanation is that Israel has become thoroughly militarized, achieving a state where the perpetuation of the conflict has become their only goal. On their own terms, then, there is no prospect within Israel for any sort of solution on any terms.

Whatever hope there may be must come from elsewhere, and the key is to remove the psychological props that keep providing a rationale for international support of Israel. I have a pet idea as to how this might happen: the Palestinian authorities in the occupied territories and the neighboring Arab nations should adopt Israel's Law of Return. It's not that the law itself is fair or a good idea, but it strips Israel of its claim to be the world's only safe haven for Jews, and it drives a wedge between Zionism and Jewishness. Active pro-Jewish programs in the Arab world would right several wrongs. It would recognize the longterm effects of the Holocaust, but it would also directly counter Israel's attempts to promote antisemitism in the Arab world as a means of promoting immigration to Israel. In the occupied territories, it would also provide a formal proposal for a method by which Israeli settlers could become Palestinian citizens. One could even display a bit of moral one-up-manship here, with Palestinians offering rights to Jews that Israel refused to offer to Palestinians.

Sandy Tolan: Five Questions for George Mitchell. Most concern the settlements, the poison pill against the peace process.

Tony karon: What will Obama do when Isreal votes 'no' again? Next week, Israel goes to the polls to elect a new government. The current poll leader is Benjamin Netanyahu, who is even more ardent about rejecting any US-generated peace proposals than the current Kadima/Labor coalition government of warmongers Tzipi Livni and and Ehud Barak. This produces a quandry for Obama, whose lavish election-period support for Israel has placed him in an awkward position, unable to publicly influence election of a government that is likely to provide a deadly drag on any behind-the-scenes efforts toward peace.

One interesting thing that Karon doesn't note is that in the past when the US became disgruntled with Israeli leadership, the Israeli electorate voted in more congenial leaders -- Rabin over Shamir, which led to the Oslo Peace agreements, and Barak over Netanyahu, which led to disaster. Unfortunately, Obama looks to be depending on subliminal signals which the Israeli electorate are free to ignore or misinterpret. On the other hand, the lack of any credible peace candidate in Israel doesn't leave one with much to work with.

Monday, February 02, 2009

House Log

Big project yesterday was to tear out some of the superstructure around the old wall cabinets. They were 30 inches high, flush with a box that extended them to the ceiling. The box was framed with 2x2 sticks and covered with sheetrock. The new wall cabinets will be 41 inches high, so we needed to carve 11 inches out of the box, putting the top of the new cabinets just below the suspended ceiling. Drew a line where we wanted to be. Drilled through the sheetrock and cut the support beams with a reciprocating saw. Snapped the sheetrock off at the line. Reinforced the remaining superstructure, and filled in with new sheetrock, using the scraps from my recent purchase. Put metal edge on the corners, and filled with wall joint compound. Was a fairly big job. Worked out nicely.

Today we got back to painting. Specifically, we painted most of the background wall Yarmouth Blue: dining room east/north walls except where shelf units will be; bathroom; pantry except where pantry cabinet will be; some bits of kitchen, including backsplash area (which presumably eventually will be tiled, but this is sort of a stopgap). Kelly left after that. I put second coats on the two north-wall shelf units, and painted bathroom door same color as the shelf units.

Made a couple of steps toward settling on the floor. Called an installer, who came out and made a bid for the job minus tile and grout. Still seems expensive, but a better quote than the first one we got, plus he gives us the option of buying the tile anywhere. Have another dealer/installer coming out tomorrow. Big deal tomorrow is the cabinet install.

Music Week

Music: Current count 15130 [15123] rated (+7), 731 [738] unrated (-7). Working almost full time on house, with very little listening time. Didn't get the incoming mail catalogued, otherwise unrateds would have soared.

Jazz Prospecting (CG #19, Part 5)

Very little jazz prospecting time this week: rated count only increased by 7. I would have called this week's post off, but there are a few items of substance below. Actually, one thing I didn't have time for was running a lot of second and third tier releases through the mill. Most of the following stuck in the player for two, three, or more spins.

No news on the finished but still pending Jazz Consumer Guide column. As for my house work, I expect this coming week to be even heavier than last week, with several big items due to come together -- new cabinets installed on Tuesday, countertop template on Thursday, new stove and vent hood in place by end of the week, plus a lot of paint and trim. Should start to ease out a bit after that.

Buffalo: Collision (Duck) (2008, Screwgun): Another of alto saxophonist Tim Berne's groups: two thirds of the Bad Plus -- pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer Dave King -- with the bassist replaced by cellist Hank Roberts, a change that trades in any real capacity for swing or groove for an arty sheen on top of the free jazz drama. Iverson plays in dense blocks, and Berne works his way around the wreckage, in one spot piling up into a brutish piece of avant-ugly, but mostly working through intelligently and inventively. B+(***)

The Flatlands Collective: Maatjes (2008, Clean Feed): Dutch alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra is the effective leader of this group of mostly Chicago-based musicians: James Falzone (clarinet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics), Jason Roebke (bass), Frank Rosaly (drums). Best when the three horns are all cooking, each on its own track, with Bishop's trombone buoying everyone else. Stretches of cello and electronics -- Dijkstra also plays lyricon and analog synth -- are scratchy abstract. The Dutch avant scene has always been noted for whimsy, while the Chicagoans are known to occasionally suspend their creativity fetish and just rock out. B+(**)

Darren Johnston: The Edge of the Forest (2007-08 [2008], Clean Feed): Trumpet player, from Canada, based in San Francisco, first album as leader, although his name shows up on another album I have in the queue, plus he has a couple of side credits. Seems like someone I should have recognized -- in fact, he appeared on a former Pick Hit here, Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra's New Magical Kingdom. Pianoless quintet here -- like one of those quartets but with a third horn, the range of colors and timbres spread wide by Ben Goldberg's clarinet and Sheldon Brown's tenor sax (or narrowed with bass clarinet), but they tend to cycle against each other rather than fly apart. Devin Hoff plays bass, Smith Dobson V drums, and Rob Reich appears on accordion on one track. Brown is a strong soloist -- another guy I've run across a couple of times, but should remember from now on. The rhythm section keeps things moving, and Goldberg is superb as the guy who ties it all together. A-

Steve Adams Trio: Surface Tension (2000 [2008], Clean Feed): Googling Steve Adams, we find: "a cutting edge progressive rock guitarist and composer, formerly with ex-Camel keyboardist Peter Bardens and Mirage"; "bass player for ALO, Brett Dennen, Sara Bareilles, Tea Leaf Green, Forest Sun"; "gospel acappella music like you have never heard before"; and a bunch of non-musicians, including a Unix/Oracle guru, a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer, the CEO of Sabrix, and some guy running for president. More promising is the Steve Adams who shows up on websites for Nine Winds (Vinny Golia) and ROVA -- he would be the 'A' there. Plays four weights of saxophone, listing sopranino first, as well as bass flute. The trio adds two guys I don't need to look up: Ken Filiano and Scott Amendola. Actually, I've heard Adams before in Filiano's company, and (of course) in Rova; also with Composers in Red Sneakers, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, and Your Neighborhood Sax Quartet -- maybe with Golia too -- Adams dedicates a song to Golia and notes that they met in 1982 -- although I'm way, way behind there. Three observations: one is that Adams has a lot of tricks up his sleeve, but only the sopranino doesn't remind me of something else I've heard before; second is that Filiano, as dependable as any bassist working today, has rarely played with this much intensity; third is that Clean Feed has made a habit of picking up old tapes by unknowns, releasing them presumably just because they like them. B+(**)

John O'Gallagher Trio: Dirty Hands (2007 [2008], Clean Feed): After some sleuthing, I found an announcement that this batch of Clean Feeds was officially released on Nov. 28, making them 2008 releases. Until then I was guessing that the the Darren Johnston, Steve Adams, and John O'Gallagher CDs must be 2009 releases, given that they don't seem to be available anywhere (DMG offers pre-orders). So it turns out that Clean Feed does have some concept of street dates, even though they may not correspond to reality -- another bookkeeping headache. As for this record, any group that manages to play 6 straight nights in Braga, Portugal is likely to show up on the label. O'Gallagher plays alto sax. I think of him as a postbop player, but he leans free, and he usually makes a strong impression, as he does here. The others are Masa Kamaguchi on bass and Jeff Williams on drums. Seems like an average set, dilligently working against the grain, exploiting the higher range of the instrument, with the rhythmic complexity de rigeur these days. B+(**)

The Skein: Andrea Parkins and Jessica Constable: Cities and Eyes (2004 [2009], Henceforth): Parkins plays accordion and piano, most notably in Ellery Eskelin's trio, and dabbles in electronics. She also gets a voice credit here, but presumably the lead vocals here belong to Constable, a British composer-singer who also has ties to Eskelin -- she's on his Quiet Music -- and who also gets a credit here for electronics. I started playing this a couple of times, quickly deciding I wasn't up for it. The vocal parts, which cover damn near the whole record, are massively irritating. The electronics also tends to irritate, but not always, and here and there can be quite intriguing. C+

Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Tomorrow Came Today (2007 [2008], Smalltown Superjazz): McPhee strikes me as the most doggedly anti-commercial avant-gardist of the last three or four decades. It's not so much that he's inaccessible but that he's so preoccupied with his own inner logic that he could care less what you think -- a couple of meetings with Ken Vandermark, who idolizes McPhee, come to mind. Norwegian drummer Nilssen-Love, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any notion that what he does shouldn't be embraced by everyone. He came up in rock groups, plays free, and sometimes ties them all together. His Dual Pleasure duos with Vandermark were unusually lucid and engaging sax-drums duos, and here he does the same trick for McPhee. A-

Frank Carlberg: The American Dream (2007 [2009], Red Piano): Finnish pianist, in US since mid-1980s. His similar previous record, State of the Union, was an HM. This one I like less, but in some ways it's even more remarkable. Both albums compose complex settings for texts, which are sung by wife Christine Correa. The texts this time were picked up from poet Robert Creeley, which may be part of the problem. Although Creeley has been subject to several jazz efforts -- some with his own voice, both active and recorded -- they strike me as unmusical, awkwardly bending around the disconcerted notes. Then there is the singer, who the notes compare to Jeanne Lee but whose operatic gravitas reminds me more of Aëbi -- last time out I noted the comparison, but didn't find Correa nearly so annoying. She takes a step in that direction here, but is still a relatively graceful singer. On the other hand, the non-vocal parts are dramatic and compelling, especially Chris Cheek's tenor sax solos, ably supported by John Hebert (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums). B+(*)

Evan Parker/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: The Brewery Tap (2007 [2008], Smalltown Superjazz): Parker should be a household name by now, but isn't anywhere close. B. 1944 in England, cut his first records c. 1971, and has released a couple hundred since, plus side credits in nearly every European avant-jazz context of interest -- his career has roughly the same shape and trajectory as Anthony Braxton's. Has his own label now, Psi, which I don't get any service on, so I only pick up occasional scraps, and he remains a long-term project. Plays tenor and soprano sax. His soprano is utterly distinctive, shrill, with a lot of circular breathing -- very impressive, but also discomforting. I usually prefer his tenor sax, which is featured here, a lot of poking and prodding, a little circular breathing. Håker Flaten's bass makes for a nice foil, rounding him out where Paal Nilssen-Love's drums might sharpen him up. Long improvs. Not clear how much weight to put on them, given the feeling that he could do this all day every day, but a very nice showcase. B+(***)

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

Unpacking: A rather substantial pile, but didn't get anything catalogued this week, so wait until next week.

Jan 2009 Mar 2009